By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff reporter
OVER 8,000 students and parents across the country have signed an online petition calling for the cancellation of the country’s national examinations which are set to begin next month.
The 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.
Since then, many parents and students have remained uncertain when the national exams would be held.
However, during a press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis gave an update, saying the 2020 tests will now be held on July 13.
Further information, he said, is expected to be provided by Education Minister Jeff Lloyd in the House of Assembly this week.
The announcement immediately sparked criticism from the public, with many calling for the government to cancel or postpone this year’s exams – saying the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has left many students both physically and mentally unprepared.
Abaco resident Marion Ramsey told The Tribune yesterday that her 15-year-old daughter is supposed to take five BJCs this year.
However, as a result of Hurricane Dorian and now the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Ramsey said the situation has taken a mental toll on her daughter, dampening her ability to remain focused on her studies.
“My daughters have been doing online classes, but they ain’t ready. We are living in a very tight space and everyone is miserable. I think they should be put off at a later date because they ain’t ready,” she said yesterday.
Some teachers have taken to Facebook, asking that educators be given a raise to mark the upcoming exams.
One teacher said: “Who will watch my children, cook for them, clean my house etc? When we are marking in the heat and the bugs and rodents are running around our feet while we mark sometimes until 9pm or later, as well as weekends and holidays. . .where are you?”
Others have taken to social media to express their anger over the revised dates, noting a lack of learning resources for disadvantaged students as a reason why the dates should be postponed.
One Facebook user posted: “The results will be disastrous. A lot of kids don’t have cell phones, no TV, no tablets. I’ve seen kids going home to houses with barely (any) running water, no light. Not to mention they didn’t have the device to view online classes. Why set the date a month away? This is ridiculous, the date should be set for November.”
However, there are some residents who don’t think the dates should be cancelled or postponed, saying students had ample time to prepare for them.
One person said: “Kids had three years to prepare for these exams. They were displaced for two months. They should be ready to sit these exams. They have one more month to review their work. Get to it and stop whining.”
A petition has been launched over the issue, calling for the use of forecasted grades instead of national exams. As of Sunday, over 8,000 votes were cast in favour of cancelling the annual exams.
The petition reads: “Due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools have been closed since March 16, 2020. Many students do not have the privilege to access electronic devices which resulted in not being allowed access to virtual education platforms.
“However, the prime minister has decided to continue with national exams. In the event that there is an emergency forecasted grades have been put in place to ensure that students receive a grade. Sign this petition to cancel national exams and use forecasted grades.”
Ms Ramsey said although she has not seen or signed the petition circulation on social media, she stands in solidarity with other parents and teachers calling for the dates to be postponed.
When contacted for comment by The Tribune yesterday, Mr Lloyd said he will address all public concerns during a Ministry of Education press conference today.