EDUCATION Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on Friday praised the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) for its swift action earlier to allay pupils' fears after the leakage of CSEC Mathematics Paper 2.
She was speaking to reporters at a Heliconia Foundation event in St Clair.
The CXC, at a regional news briefing via Zoom on Friday, announced it was scrapping paper 2, which pupils had sat the day before, and would instead assess their grades based on their existing school-based assessment (SBA) marks plus the Paper 1 exam (60 multiple-choice questions), which is due in mid-June.
Gadsby-Dolly said, "I think CXC reacted very quickly, very decisively, to ensure there was a solution to the challenge that faced us. I'm glad for that because it actually puts the students' minds to rest about exactly what is going to happen."
She said the leak had been unfortunate.
"We have asked CXC to give us some details of what would have happened, so that we in our own countries are able to safeguard.
"There are many persons who guard the papers very, very closely. We have armed vehicles and armoured vehicles escorting all of the papers from the airport and we use vaulting and so on. All of us do that."
She said the region's authorities want to know exactly what happened to guard against any future recurrence.
"As the saying goes, 'when your neighbour house on fire, wet yours.'"
She was looking forward to insights from the CXC so as to help secure the situation in TT.
CXC registrar Wayne Wesley said on Friday the leak had been traced to an examination centre in Jamaica.
Newsday asked if she had got any feedback about the Paper 2 cancellation from teachers, parents and pupils in the few hours since the CXC briefing.
Gadsby-Dolly said, "It's very early, so I really have not heard any response from them.
"What I can say is that when we met with CXC today quite a few (education) ministers from across the region were present and I think all felt very satisfied with how CXC had handled the situation and communicated with the public about what was happening."
She said the last known leak of CXC papers had been in 2008.
It was important in the current case to find out what went wrong, she said, so that each territory could improve their security arrangements.
Reporters asked if pupils were being distracted by criminal incidents such as an injured man recently escaping from assailants by running into a school in Belmont. Gadsby-Dolly replied pupils faced many distractions, including social media.
"The world is not the same as it was.
"So I am concerned, as a mother of children, and their ability to focus on the important things because of the number of distractions."
It was vital for parents to get their children involved in activities that would encourage them to become ready learners, she said
"The fact is that this is the world and they have to exist in it, so we have to give them the tools to be able to cope and minimise the distractions, whether it be the crime situation, whether it be the social media or general distractions."
Gadsby-Dolly said the crime and covid19 had brought more trauma on children than usual, to the point where some were grieving for their parents who were murder victims.
"I saw an instance where a student of mine who I taught in Convent told me that her sister went to a school where she was teaching and one of the girls said to her, 'Miss, your father alive?' She said 'Yes.'
"'And then that girl identified that her father was killed.
"She was joined by quite a number, more than half the class, and they were all recounting – quite normally – where they found their (deceased) fathers.
"One of the fathers was found in a drain. Her father was found behind the house, dead."
Gadsby-Dolly said the teacher started to cry. "One, the information was so sad, and two the way the children were just relating this without emotion, because they had become so numb, even at their age, as to what was happening.
"So when that is the experience of a child, understand that in circumstances we are facing in a normal schoolday, their reaction may not be what we expect."
Advocating the role of the Student Support Services Division, she said her ministry was recruiting 120 new counsellors to help to deal with children in 106 schools. She said such support would help give pupils an equal chance in life and help towards improving their academic performance.
"So that is why we are pushing in that direction – to give support in that social area so they are better prepared to take on the academics, because once they cannot connect with the academics because of their social circumstances, they don't have a fighting chance."