ANDREW GIOANNETTI and ELIZABETH GONZALES
JUST under 150 students across the country, flanked by their parents and guardians, breathed a sigh of relief when the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) make-up exam ended on Wednesday afternoon.
Newsday visited Tranquillity Primary and Tunapuna Hindu Primary, two of the eight centres used to accommodate students from dozens of schools across the country. They do not include the students who requested deferrals offered by the Ministry of Education in May. Those students will write the exam next year.
The ministry said 146 students were allowed to take the make-up test, many of whom were directly affected by covid19 and were unable to write the exam on the original date – July 1.
The ministry reported a "smooth day" on Wednesday with no issues at any of the schools.
The exam started at 8.30 am and finished at 1.30 pm when students were allowed to leave the school compounds.
At the entrance to Tranquillity, parents told Newsday they requested deferrals after they either tested positive or were primary contacts of someone who had covid19 around the time.
They said it was challenging having to deal with the virus while preparing their child for the exam.
Nika St Hillaire, the mother of a student, told Newsday: "We have been anticipating this for quite some time. We are just glad to have it over and done with."
Her daughter Maya Clary said the exam was easy and her only focus now is to spend as much time as she can relaxing at home.
Another student said she had been under a lot of pressure over the last two weeks.
"I felt a bit sad seeing everyone else doing the exam and I here in quarantine…I’m just glad it’s over."
Haley-Ann Bernard said she, too, felt disappointed being unable to write the exam on the original date.
Bernard’s mother contracted the virus, requiring her family to enter quarantine.
"The exam was easy (but) some of the questions were a little hard." She said she plans to recuperate after the intense preparations by spending time with her family abroad.
Unlike the option of deferral brought on by the pandemic, it is standard for allowances for a make-up exam shortly after the original date to facilitate students who faced illness or an emergency immediately around the original examination.
Newsday also visited Tunapuna Hindu Primary where only about 30 students sat the exam. Only a few parents were there waiting before lunch for the exam to finish. They, too, said their children took the make-up exam because of illness.
The make-up exams and the deferrals should not to be mistaken with a re-sit, which would suggest the student already took the exam.
Visham Ramsawak, the ministry's communications specialist, told Newsday: "These are students who, God forbid, would have gotten sick – covid19, circumstances of that nature, and would not have been able to write the exam. It is standard procedure across the Caribbean."
In May, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said some 178 students from 88 primary schools applied to defer writing the SEA exam in 2022 – a considerably higher number than in normal years, clearly owing to the pandemic.