Grand Bahama’s school administrators and teachers have returned to the classroom for the 2022/2023 school year with grand expectations and are feeling positive about being face to face again with their students after more than a year of virtual learning, due to the pandemic.
The new school year for public school students started on August 29.
Principal of Jack Hayward Junior High School JoyAnne Pennerman said teachers and students worked hard during the period of online learning and pandemic protocols, and are aiming for excellence this year.
“We were able to maintain our standard of above 60 percent pass for the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) exams. So, we were pleased with that,” said Pennerman. “This school year, we are expecting no less.”
She added, “Boosting our students’ grade point average (GPA) and BJC results is our focus.
“We are also encouraging them to participate in various activities, so that we meet our five-star pursuit.
“We work with a professional group of teachers. They are serious about education. Our theme this year is ‘Boosting Stars for Quality Experiences’ and we’ve already hit the ground running.
“So, overall, things have been going smoothly with the assistance of our entire team, including the security personnel, the on-campus police officer and our two general workers.”
Last month, the Ministry of Education reported that 12.9 percent or 633 of the 4,906 candidates who sat the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations in 2022 received a C or higher in at least five subjects.
Last year, 5,147 students sat the exams and only 550 (or 10.6 percent) received at least a C in five or more subjects.
In October 2021, the Ministry of Education disclosed that more than 30 percent of students were not attending online classes.
At the time, Minister of Education Glenys Hanna-Martin said the ministry was putting proactive measures in place to ensure regular attendance.
“School is a social place where children learn, grow and interact with others,” said Leslie Newton, principal of Martin Town Primary School, Eight Mile Rock.
“The virtual world does not lend itself to that. So, we are happy that the children are back in the classroom. We prefer face-to-face learning, which has been a challenge since COVID.”
Newton said safety protocols are being maintained throughout the school.
Pennerman said parental visitation is being kept to a minimum at her school to the displeasure of some parents.
“We want to ensure that the campus is safe for our students and teachers,” she said. “We must be careful.”
Alexander Farrington, an eighth-grade student at Sister Mary Patricia Junior High School, said he is glad to be back in school.
“I didn’t mind the computer classes, but it was a bit hard,” Alexander said. “I like it when we are in the classroom with my teacher present.”
The 12-year-old, who is preparing for BJC exams, added, “Returning to face-to-face learning is better.”
One thousand three hundred and forty-nine candidates, or 14.09 percent of the total candidature who took the BJCs in 2022, achieved at least a C in mathematics, English, and a science subject.
Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy Principal Ashell Bain said students and teachers were ready to return to campus and are looking forward to a rewarding year.
“We have put a lot of new initiatives and strategies in place hoping to see an even better improvement in our national exams,” Bain said.
“We’ve seen great grades, but we are continuing to try to do things to improve that.”
She noted that since opening day, it has been busy, with parents trying to get their children in school.
“We have seen an increase in registration, and there are [many] more on our waiting list,” Bain said.
“Meanwhile, we have protocols in place for the students, although they have to be reminded to wear the mask properly and wash their hands after every break. But we have been going full since day one.”
Ivan Butler, district superintendent of education for Grand Bahama, Bimini and the Cays, visited several schools and said the opening of the term is going well.
“Students showed up in proper uniforms and parents were excited,” Butler said.
While there is some concern over attendance, he said specific measures are in place with the assistance of police to correct that situation.
“We want all of our students in the classroom, getting their education,” he said.
In the meantime, Hanna-Martin said her ministry is working on alternatives for students who may not be academically inclined.
“We’re trying to engage students to be more inquisitive, so it’s less fact memorization and more inquiry, critical thinking, so that stimulus takes place in schools,” she said.
She believes the strategy will help to identify any barriers and issues students may encounter.