After waiting five weeks for results; an unusually long period for the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA), our grade six pupils, their teachers and parents must have given collective and individual sighs of relief yesterday when the suspense ended.
The entire nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines has every reason to be proud of this cohort of students given their overall pass rate of 84.96 per cent despite the disruptions and stresses they experienced in the 18 months leading up to their exams. These children have had about half of the grade 5 and 6 curriculum delivered via distance learning with all the challenges and disadvantages that come with that, and if that were not enough, many of these 10, 11 and 12-year-olds had the traumatic experience of having to flee their homes and communities for unfamiliar environments when La Soufriere turned explosive.
What is absolutely amazing and heart-warming about the results is that among the top performers of the 2021 CPEA are pupils from the rural red and orange volcano hazard zones, including one of the boys who tied for first place. Commendations are therefore in order for all concerned – the pupils and their support systems at home, school and at the Ministry of Education.
With that hurdle out of the way, the next step is to safely reopen our schools on October 4.
But Government must first find accommodation for the more than 1000 residents of the red and orange zones who are still being sheltered in school buildings; then comes the repair refurbishment that will have to be done to get the school plants back up to standard.
Moreover, while the Government works on getting the school plants ready, including completing construction of the temporary school buildings at Arnos Vale and Black Point, the entire society has another grave responsibility. It is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to keep the prevalence of Covid19 infection in our society low. Once the children return to school, we want them to remain there; nobody wants them to have to go back to remote learning anytime soon.
There are signs everywhere however that Vincentians are becoming complacent and worse, aggressively resisting the COVID19 protocols that have been put in place to help keep us safe. Minister of Health Jimmy Prince spoke about this earlier this week during a press conference of his ministry. We seem not to be noticing that the delta variant is wreaking havoc all around the Caribbean while our own Covid19 numbers are rising slowly. The Barbados Government has announced that when schools reopen on September 20, classes will be fully online because of a new, strong surge of coronavirus infections, apparently linked to the highly contagious delta variant which has affected more children.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, we want our schools to reopen on schedule and remain open, but too many of us still do not want to do what we need to do to make these things happen. We need to connect the dots.