There are concerns that the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 protocols were breached during yesterday’s Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination at a Princes Town school.
Over 100 students sat the exam at the Princes Town Presbyterian No 1 School.
For the past five years, however, students from the Princes Town Presbyterian No 1 and Presbyterian No 2 have been sharing the building on a shift system.
Expressing alarm over the situation, acting president of the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations Clarence Mendoza said a video showed the children mingling under a tent during a break in the exams. It was raining at the time, the students were not social distancing and some were not wearing face masks.
“I am highly upset by what transpired and why were the children under a tent,” Mendoza said.
Expressing concern for the safety of the children, he questioned why the adults at the school did not ensure the children followed the COVID-19 guidelines.
“This is truly mindboggling. The adults are there and all the children are unsupervised. No masks and no social distancing, which we had called for.”
Given the increase in COVID-19 cases, he said this is something the Health and Education Ministries ought to look into.
School PTA president Nola Ramjohn-Karim said three tents were used to accommodate the Presbyterian No 1 students during the break because there was insufficient accommodation inside the school for all the students.
“We know we have to make adjustments due to COVID-19 but this is ridiculous. If the children were not sharing one school they would not have been put in this position. Imagine the children getting wet, the rain beating in on them in the tent. This whole situation with COVID took a toll on the children and now having to deal with this, it is too much,” Ramjohn-Karim said.
Mendoza, however, said he had received no other complaints. He said the information reaching him was that the children were happy and relieved the exam was finally over.
The exam was initially set for April but due to COVID-19 it was pushed back.
Windermere Private School principal Laureen Debance-Misir confirmed their students were elated at the end.
“I think the children came out stress-free. They were more relieved than anything else that SEA was over and they were really happy and smiling. So I think this was a different SEA. It was more about relief, it finally being over.”
Amelia Khan, a student of Mohess Road Hindu, said the exams were not hard at all. But having to wear a face mask at all times caused her some discomfort.
“It was a little hard during class time,” she said.
However, Samantha Gobin, a student of Reform Hindu, said she had grown accustomed wearing a mask so she had no difficulty.
“So, it was normal. I feel relieved now that it is over,” Gobin said, adding she was confident the loss of class time did not affect her performance.
Freeport Presbyterian student Sian Ramsundar felt she did well in the exam.
“I have been preparing for this moment for a long time and I am very happy.”
Ramsundar, whose first choice is Couva Convent, said she now intends to spend her free time relaxing, reading and catching up on sleep.
Ramsundar’s mother, Nicole Indar, said, “As a parent, I am deeply relieved and very grateful that this chapter has come to an end for her primary school education.”
Despite the COVID-19 protocols in place, Indar said she was not pleased that SEA was held during the second wave of the virus.
“There are measures where they could have assessed the children without them having to write this exam,” she said.