I must say I feel rather disappointed in your stance against the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exams being held in August.
Yes, yes, the situation is not ideal with Covid-19, distance learning or lack thereof, social distancing, asymptomatic persons, sanitation protocols, yada, yada, yada. But come on!
Here you have a pack of 11/12 year olds, who for the last three years of their lives have had a phenomenal amount of back breaking pressure placed upon them. Not to mention their parents.
Finally, when this exam, that they have been made to believe is the be all and end all, is just weeks away, a global pandemic hits.
Suddenly, they are plunged into a vortex of uncertainty. They are left at the mercy of the adults around them, adults they trust to have their best interest at heart.
But sadly Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), I fear you have seen this as an opportunity to try flexing your muscle.
You have rejected a number of suggested exam dates, scoffed at provisions and stipends proposed by the government. I understand you have the interest of teachers to protect, but you need to question whether it is, you are protecting them or simply using a global crisis to prove your clout.
President Antonia De Freitas, I’d like to draw your attention to something you said on your election platform, “As a teacher, I believe in meeting children where they are.”
So I would like to invite you to meet them where they are with the most nightmarish situation that you and I as women can understand.
Picture this; you are pregnant. It’s been a rough 40 weeks, all day throw ups, raging heart burn, a few complications, lots of aches and pains. But, alas, here you are in the delivery room. You are both extremely petrified and phenomenally relieved, because after a good push on through the pain, you are done.
The victory of your reproduction will be in your arms momentarily and you are relishing the thought of being able to tie your shoes again. Then the doctor walks in, looks you dead in the eye and says, “Hey so no one thought this would happen, but turns out you can’t have this baby yet, act of God, natural phenomenon, but it isn’t happening today or at least for another couple of months.” He pats your shoulders, gives you a sad smile and walks away.
You are now left in a state of discomfort, stress and uncertainty. It’s paralysing and consuming.
This is how SEA students and their parents are feeling right now.
Every year we hear stories of SEA students having mental breakdowns and harming themselves due to stress. This happens under normal circumstances, where their learning has not been disrupted.
So can you imagine how they are feeling now, especially children who have not had access to online learning or children who are trapped in abusive homes?
I understand you are looking out for teachers. I know many of them do not have it easy, but who is looking out for our children?
In 1997, I sat what was then known as Common Entrance. A global pandemic did not disrupt my exams, but I did fall down two weeks before and broke both my wrist and ankle…I was a chunky kid; a lot of weight came tumbling down.
These broken bones and my brains natural aversion to all things mathematical, added to the crushing panic I was already feeling.
I don’t think I outwardly showed it; in fact I am pretty sure I internalised it all, which would explain the suffocating anxiety I sometimes feel in my adulthood.
No child walks away from SEA or any other sort of exam that is drilled into their minds and subconscious as an indicator of their future success, without a little Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Madame President, I trust in the 32 years you taught primary school students, you know this to be true.
While I cannot dispute that our nation’s teachers deserve the absolute best, pandemic shut down homeschooling has confirmed this, I cannot help but wonder if your defiant stance of all or any recommendations made by our government regarding examinations is at its core a power play.
Yes you represent teachers, but as I asked before who is standing up for our children?
TTUTA you are more than a union. You are protectors of our educational system.
You have the ability to shape what our nation becomes through the protection of our teachers, who in turn can change our society for the better through the nurturing of future generations.
Save your fight to ensure teachers have the tools they need, to ensure all schools are treated equally, to ensure our system of education moves beyond this archaic system of read and repeat.
So please, power suits and politics aside, just let these children do their exams!
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