Over the last few weeks, after many months of online classes, school age children in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have been returning to school to facilitate end of year assessments, including external examinations like the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) which is being written today and tomorrow by almost 1900 pupils.
Despite the risk associated with bringing the students and teachers together in this era of COVID19, there is no immediately obvious viable alternative that would allow for fair and comprehensive testing of our children’s knowledge and skills. So, the children have been going to school, most trying to observe the COVID19 protocols, as far as is possible for children.
The in-school testing of other grade levels that has been taking place over the past month or so, as well as this week’s two-day CPEA exercise for grade six pupils is a good dry-run of what will be expected to take place in October, when school is scheduled to re-open for all grades. We fervently hope that when that date comes around, our circumstances here in SVG permit the 2021/2022 school year to commence as planned.
In the 16 months since COVID19 barged its way into our country in March 2020, our children have had at most four or five months of in-person tutelage. Our youngsters need to be in school, among their peers and teachers, as online learning/teaching cannot adequately cater to the social and emotional development needs of the children and also many aspects of their academic education. This is particularly true where our younger children are concerned and the ground lost over the past months will not be easily reclaimed.
Undoubtedly, in the days they have spent in school for testing and evaluation, our teachers and students have picked up skills about how to safely manoeuvre within the school space. They should be supported with the provision of adequate sanitization supplies, cleaning personnel, classrooms that are properly ventilated and have enough space to allow for physical distancing. Vaccination is also an important plank in our efforts to re-open our schools and keep them open. If all our teachers and other school staff are vaccinated and all our children come from homes where all the adults are vaccinated, the chances of COVID19 outbreaks are greatly reduced.
The education of our children is too important for us to not make every effort to get them safely back to school and keep them there. Let us do what we need to do.