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MSJ political leader David Abdulah.

Given the challenges faced by students during this COVID-19 pandemic, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is fearing this country’s worst results in the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examinations in July.

MSJ leader David Abdulah gave the grim prediction as he gave the government a failing grade in their handling of education and social relief distributions during the stay-at-home regulations to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), as well as other groups and individuals, have expressed their disapproval with the CSEC and CAPE exams being held in July.

Speaking at a virtual press conference on Sunday, Abdulah noted Education Minister Anthony Garcia’s statement that he expects the students to be resilient and do well. However, Abdulah recalled that in the 2018 CSEC examinations 1,500 students failed all their subjects, 40 per cent did not obtain a full certificate of five subjects, over 40 per cent failed Maths and over 30 per cent failed English.

“The Minister at the time in 2018 said that one of the main reasons for the poor results at CSEC were socio-economic challenges, poverty, the lack of a strong family structure and economic challenges.”

Within the last few months, he said thousands of students, particularly those writing CSEC would not have had access to good internet, a dedicated device to benefit from online learning, and may have had challenges with parental supervision to ensure that they logged in to their classes and do the necessary work.

“Those children who would have had these problems were precisely the ones in the demographic that the minister described a couple of years ago as being areas of problems for children who don’t pass these exams.”

He added, “It is our view that those who traditionally would have been left behind as a result of this inequality in the education system because of the inequality in the socio-economic system that we have in T&T, that demographic will be thrown in the bamboo and are going to be in a much worse situation in terms of the pass failure rates for this CSEC exam. And so what we are doing is perhaps condemning thousands of young people to a life whose future is not bright at all.”

He said in the MSJ’s Road Map for T&T they suggested that schools with weak academic performance be reopened with a limited number of students, no more than 15, to ensure that those students would have the benefit of face to face tuition from their teachers.

“We believe that Dr Rowley´s government has failed significantly to ensure that the Trinidad of poor people, many of whom reside along the East-West corridor that those children would not have been further disadvantaged and we fear the worst in this situation.”

Noting revelations by education stakeholders to the Joint Select Committee on Friday that only about 20 per cent of the students who receive meals in schools, received temporary food cards, he lamented, “That is horrendous.”

Saying that parliamentary representatives should not have been given the cards to distribute, he said, the whole programme was a total dismal failure. Abdulah recalled that the MSJ had recommended the continuation of the school feeding programme to ensure that caterers and farmers continue to receive an income and that students who depended on the school meals would have received it.

Lamenting that only half of the people, approximately 20,000, who applied in March have received salary relief grants, he said, “That is not good enough. So what happened throughout April and May for those 50 per cent who have received nothing to date. How have they survived over those two months.”

When the $28 million worth of salary relief grants distributed so far is compared to the $1.6 billion payouts to business people, he said, “I am not saying that the business people were not supposed to get it. In terms of allocation of resources, the vast majority of the resources so far has gone to the business sector.”