THE EDITOR: The impact of postponing the Secondary Entry Assessment (SEA) examination due to the covid19 pandemic on students, parents and teachers has not been given the attention it deserves. Students were excited about the initial SEA date of April 2 because they would have had five months of free and fun time after the exam, and before entering secondary school in September. In fact, this point was used as a motivating factor by teachers and parents to encourage students to peak as the exam approached. Two weeks before the exam the country went into a state of lockdown and the exam was postponed indefinitely.
The tremendous psychological impact of the postponement cannot be measured. Yet, it was further exasperated by attempts to conduct online classes: ten-year-olds being taught for hours via online Zoom classes and being left with homework for the rest of the day, during a period when their lives should be filled with fun and excitement. It is indeed frustration that no child should be made to bear.
The new date set for the SEA exam is August 20, and we are now about the same point in time before the exam when the country was previously locked down. As fate would have it, we are once again experiencing a renewed wave of covid19 cases. This time, however, in a more concentrated way. We have moved from recording explainable, imported cases to uncontrollable, community spread; we have moved from recording one or two cases for the week to cases approaching double-digits daily.
Recently, many businesses and government offices, including banks, police stations, court houses and others have remained closed due to suspected cases. At least two schools have ceased SEA classes and students placed in quarantine because their peers tested positive for the virus. Undoubtedly the virus is now spreading at an exponential rate and it is now completely out of control.
An observation of the international arena has shown that contact tracing efforts have proven futile. As cases increase, contact tracing is simply an impossible task. Countries with advance medical systems, doctors and hospitals are recording thousands of new cases and hundreds of new deaths daily. In each of these countries, it began exactly the same way it is happening here in TT. It is indeed frightening for what the future holds.
Any sensible analysis would reveal that a second lockdown is imminent and it is in the best interest of the population for it to happen sooner than later. Where does this leave the SEA students? Based on the current rate of spread of the virus, the country is bound to go into a locked down state before the exam. This means it will be postponed indefinitely once again. The Emperor Valley Zoo has already closed its doors to the public in order to protect the animals.
Are we ready to protect our children? I am calling on the authorities to bring up the SEA exam to the most recent and practical date possible. This would be the wisest thing to do to avoid another postponement. The students cannot handle a repeat of this dilemma. Every day that students leave home to attend classes, parents are fearful that their child will contract the virus.
Furthermore, the consecutive school terms at primary, secondary and tertiary levels would be messed up if the exam is postponed. I am sure that as a country we can work out the logistics of holding the exam within a few days. I am appealing to all stakeholders: Government, TTUTA, NPTA, NPSPA, parents, teachers. Please make this happen in the best interest of our children and our country.
DR RAMCHAND RAMPERSAD