Church gives free CSEC classes
AT a time when many private institutions are charging thousands of dollars to prepare students for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, one local church has been doing it for free and is witnessing a high level of passes among its students.
There are currently 150 students enrolled in the classes offered by the Worship and Faith International Fellowship off Old Harbour Road in St Catherine.
The classes were part of efforts by founding pastors Bishop Courtney McLean and his wife Nadine, who wanted to make a positive impact on the communities surrounding the church.
The classes started in 2012 and Stacy-Ann Gray was appointed the principal for the church's educational facility, which is called the WAFIF Academy of Excellence.
"At the time, we registered 100 students for seven CXC or CSEC subjects which include maths, English, social studies, principles of business, office administration, principles of accounts and human and social biology and we also teach remedial arithmetic and English," said Gray.
"Over the course of the first year we offered the seven CXC subjects and the remedial classes and we sent approximately 33 persons to the CXC exams and of that 33, we got a 79 per cent pass rate, which included several distinctions," she pointed out.
She said of the 150 students now registered at the institution, 40 of them will be doing the CSEC examinations this year and so teachers at the institution have been committing all their time and effort into getting them prepared.
"Most of our teachers are volunteers. There is one teacher that we pay, but the rest of them willingly volunteer and they are all trained to the university level or teachers' diploma level," she said.
The school also hosts motivational and personal development sessions where speakers or professionals are invited to come and encourage the students. These workshops include sessions on interview skills, personal hygiene, proper nutrition and etiquette. The school also took a group of students to the University of the West Indies Career Expo last month, and last week also held their own career and entrepreneurship expo.
The free classes are just one of several outreach activities started by the church and is funded by the tithes and offerings collected from members. However, Gray said that most of those who attend the classes are not from the church. These individuals are between the ages of 17 to 40 years old and some of them come from as far as Kingston to attend the evening classes.
"It's an after school programme, so classes generally start like after 5:30 in the evening to about 7:30. For some classes we may go up until eight o'clock and there are a few students who are currently going to high school that are a part of the classes as well, but for the most part, the students are those who have dropped out of high school for a number of years. Some of them either did not complete the CSEC exams or they weren't successful. For some reason or another, they dropped out of high school or did not complete high school, so those are the students that we have coming back," Gray said.
Gray said the school uses the curriculum produced by the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning for their remedial classes.
"The vision is to expand the school further to offer a skills training area and we have begun seeking guidance from HEART Trust/NTA in terms of enquiring and looking at what protocols we need to observe and so on, but we have not begun anything with them as yet," she said.
She noted that persons have expressed an interest in being certified in areas such as computer training, early childhood education, practical nursing and administrative training. However, the church will not be able to offer these until next year since the focus is currently on CSEC students and they would need more facilities in order to offer them.
"One of the things that we are trying to do right now is putting in partitions in one of the classrooms so we can have more than two classes per evening. Currently we are a bit limited by space, because it is just two classes, but when the partition goes in, which should be for the September semester, we should be able to have like four classes per evening," Gray noted.