Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson said yesterday that national examinations should be canceled for this term and instead held in October or November of this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Should the exams be held at that time, she suggested, 12th grade students awaiting graduation could have their results by December and attend college in January 2021.
Although Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd on Wednesday said there are currently no plans to cancel examinations or the current school year, Wilson said she considers that “impractical”.
“First of all, I believe that that is impractical,” said Wilson while appearing as a guest on the Guardian Radio 96.9 FM talk show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan.
“I believe it is illogical and I’m going to give you my reasoning. I recommended for the Ministry of Education to cancel the scheduled sittings of examinations April, May and June – we’re talking about the GLAT, BJC and BGCSE.
“Now my reasoning for that is the calendar that the Department of Education sent out to teachers, to us from last year, examinations should have begun from March 30th.
“So if we were on lockdown until April 30th and the exams were to run from March 30th to May 7th, then obviously you could not have a sitting of the examination in April, May and June.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on March 15 that schools were to close for a month after the country recorded its first case of COVID-19.
Last week, however, the Ministry of Education announced that all schools will remain closed indefinitely as the pandemic continues.
Wilson highlighted the months-long lockdown in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, as an example of a timeline for how long it could take The Bahamas to begin to loosen some of the emergency measures that the government has put into place to contain its spread.
According to the New York Times, China first reported cases of the virus on December 31. The city of Wuhan was locked down on January 23 and that city’s lockdown ended on April 8.
“The first case in The Bahamas was March 15th, so we’re only on our first month,” Wilson said.
“[I]f we look at what has happened in the other countries – then March 15th, the next three months would be June 15th, and if it’s four months then it’s July.
“So, it means then that you cannot have the sittings. So I would have also recommended that we look at October and November as tentative dates for the examinations.”
She added, “If you have the national exams in November, my teachers are telling me, ‘Ms. Wilson the exams would be about two weeks, we can mark in two to three weeks,’ which means that December, your marking is completed [and] your results are completed.
“Remember now, there’s always matriculation into colleges and universities in January. So [students] can matriculate in January 2021 with their certificate or at least with the transcripts or the results of their examinations.
“Remember now, this is a pandemic. We’re talking about the world. So if Cambridge canceled the sitting of their examinations from March 24, 2020, then what is it we’re waiting for?”
Considering the impact that Hurricane Dorian also had on Grand Bahama and Abaco students after the monster storm uprooted hundreds of lives last September, Wilson said the Ministry of Education should consider canceling the rest of the school year.
“[T]his pandemic will compel them to change the examinations and it will compel them to cancel the remainder of the school year,” Wilson said.