By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd yesterday dismissed claims that the national BJC and BGCSE exams had experienced some operational challenges on their first day of sitting, insisting “the examinations went on very well” despite allegations otherwise.
This comes after Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson raised concerns over how the exams were held, saying she had been informed that ministry officials were late to some schools and that some exams started late at least at one centre. She also said there was “little to no social distancing and that workers were seen not wearing masks.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday, Mr Lloyd said he could not confirm the allegations and noted that officials have taken every necessary precaution to ensure that the exams are being administered in a safe manner.
“I have no confirmation of those allegations, none whatsoever,” he said. “Every single investigation and assessment that I have uncovered as of this morning broaching on ten o’clock in the morning, is that the examinations went on very well.
“I also understand that some comments were made in regard to the number of students that attended the examinations. If you look at the exam schedule, the first exam was art and design.
“How many students take art and design? The largest cohort of students take what we call the core subject – math, English and the sciences and social science, religious knowledge which is coming up beginning near the end of this week and certainly into the next one.”
Noting that there are some critics who just cannot be pleased, the education minister said he was very disheartened to see agents of change adopting such a “defeatist and disappointing posture”.
He said: “So, you know it is regrettable to me and personally disappointing that agents of inspiration and continuing transformation and motivation for our young people at this time, in our national circumstances would provide instead of the motivations and inspiration, more of a defeatist and disappointing posture.
“If COVID-19 isn’t enough of a despondent reality for so many people, why would those in the educational sphere, stakeholders and otherwise not be sparks of inspiration and motivation and encouragement for our young people who like all of us are in desperate need of such?”
BJC and BGCSE exams, which usually start in April, were postponed after the government closed schools in the country in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take effect.
Last month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis gave an update on the examinations, saying the 2020 tests will begin on July 13.
After the announcement, more than 8,000 students and parents across the country signed an online petition calling for the cancellation of the national exams. However yesterday, Mr Lloyd maintained that students have been “turning out in the numbers that (officials) expect,” adding that they feel hopeful that students “are going to acquit themselves excellently”.
In view of this, the education minister said he is choosing to focus on the positivity rather than negative news in the market.
He said to critics: “If you have rocks to throw at us and you wish to stand on the sideline and be a critic, you are entitled to do so but we have no time to absorb that or be interested in it.
“We have been in the business for decades, the Ministry of Education, and we accept and understand that these are different, challenging and unprecedented times. We have taken all necessary precautions to ensure that these exams are administered properly and effectively, and we are satisfied that they are being done so.
“So, I have no assurance to give to any critic. I invite those who are committed or sincere or interested in advancing the educational apparatus of our country and the beneficial future of our students to come and join us.”
Asked yesterday when the public can expect to hear about new changes that will be implemented for the new school year, the minister replied that officials are expected to make an announcement next week.
“Those plans are being finalised this week and an announcement will be made and disseminated across the spectrum of The Bahamas early next week and all parents and students and others will be clearly informed as to what,” he said.
“Bear in mind that as we stand here today, we are looking at more than likely eight weeks before schools open so I know that people are anxious to know how schools are opening and I also would like to invite people to check and see that there’s not a single school system on this planet who can tell you with confirmation and conclusion exactly how schools are going to open in September.
“They are all planning as we are, and they are all looking at the model that is most likely they will choose.”
Mr Lloyd has previously said education officials are considering class rotations and limiting face-to-face instruction between teachers and students when the new school year begins.