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Airy Castle readies for GSAT despite fire, no electricity

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Less than a week before its students sit the high-school qualifying Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), Airy Castle Primary School in St Thomas has no electricity and does not know when the utility will be restored.

GSAT is scheduled for this Thursday and Friday, March 16 and 17 respectively.

A fire at the school razed the library, computer lab/resource room and canteen a month ago, causing extensive infrastructure damage and knocking out power to the facility.

Since then, the students have had to move outside for classes, especially when overcast skies block out the sun. In instances of heavy rain, the teachers did oral or practical sessions.

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“On a given day like today (Thursday) where it is very overcast, the classroom was dark. We have had to even go as far as put them on the corridors because the classroom might be too dark for them to function,” Principal Dawn Graham told the Jamaica Observer.

She is hopeful that electricity will be restored in time for the exams. Otherwise, her students will have to sit the test at nearby schools such as Bath Primary and Port Morant Primary, and she is not very fond of the idea.

“A change of environment now is not the best thing for them. It’s not good to wake up and find yourself in exams sitting around students you’ve never seen before, in buildings you have never been in before,” she said.

Graham said the Ministry of Education and service provider Jamaica Public Service were working to have the power restored.

In spite of the lack of electricity and the adjustments both students and teachers have had to make as a result, Graham said the situation has not negatively impacted the students’ exam preparation.

“Preparation for GSAT is going well. We have just minor setbacks, with the fire on the 13th of February. We did not allow it to affect their (the students) instruction, except for the said day. The grade six students returned the next day.

“They have been exposed to the mandated five hours a day plus additional classes are held for them on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays by their class teacher Mrs Tezeta Sterling-Wynter who is very, very dedicated. Even when we had the Ash Wednesday mid-term recently, she had class on the Thursday, Graham told Career & Education.

Graham is confident that her students are ready for the exam, using the results of the national mock exam that was introduced this year as a key indicator. She said the highest grades received for mathematics and communication task were 91 per cent and 11/12 respectively. She also attributed the students’ readiness to Sterling-Wynter’s efforts, which she said has resulted in placements to prominent high schools in the past.

On the subject of the mock exam, Graham believes it is a good initiative, but thinks it would be more useful if this is done in either late February or early March, after the students are exposed to the entire syllabus.

Airy Castle is currently accepting donations to fund the repairs through National Commercial Bank (NCB) account number 641001333. Donors from overseas will need the swiss code JNCBJMKX and routing number 64077.

— Falon Folkes

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