Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
…records improvements in English A & Food and Nutrition
By Svetlana Marshall
Notwithstanding the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Houston Secondary School continues to improve its performance at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examinations.
In an interview with Village Voice News, the Headmaster, Kevin Williamson, said in 2019 and 2020, Houston Secondary was adjudged the most improved school at the CSEC Examinations, and this year it continued along that trajectory.
Williamson pointed out that the school acquired more Grade Ones at CSEC in 2021 than it did in 2020. In fact, its top student, Trevon Narine, secured three Grade Ones, Three Grade Twos and One Grade Three.
At the CSEC Examinations, 23 students were drawn from Houston Secondary, of that number, seven (7) wrote Agriculture Science – all of whom secured passes. Based on statistics provided by the school, two of the seven students secured Grade Ones, while another two achieved Grade Twos. The remaining three students acquired Grade Threes, resulting in a 100% pass rate, Grades 1-3. The school also secured 100% passes (Grades 1-3) in Human and Social Biology (HSB), however, only two students wrote the subject in 2021 compared to nine in 2020. One of the students secured a Grade Two while the other, a Grade Three.
All 23 students wrote English A, and according to the stats provided, 78.3% secured passes with Grades One to Three in 2021 compared to 77.3% in 2020; however, when Grade Four is included, 100% of the students acquired Grades One to Four.
The situation was similar for Foods, Nutrient and Health (FNH), though fewer students wrote the subject. In 2021, 10 students wrote Food, Nutrient and Health at the CSEC exams, of which three students secured Grade Twos while six acquired Grade Threes and one, Grade Four. When the Grade Four is excluded, the school secures a 90% pass rate, however, when included, the school acquired 100% passes (Grades 1-4).
In the case of Mathematics, all 23 students took the exam, however, only two students acquired Grade Threes. According to the stats provided, nine of them secured Grade Four, while 12 got Grade Fives.
Other subjects written included Integrated Science, Office Administration, Principles of Business, Social Studies, Family Resource Management and Industrial Technology.
Williamson said though it was challenging operating in a COVID-19 pandemic, the school took the necessary precautions to ensure that the students, whenever in school, were operating in a safe and healthy environment. Many of the classes, however, were done virtually.
“Teachers went above and beyond,” Williamson said while explaining that when the school was forced to close its doors due to the pandemic, teachers took the necessary steps to ensure that they were connected with their students virtually.
Ronella Bacchus, the Agriculture Teacher who secured 100% passes Grades 1-3, told Village Voice News that many of her students either lacked internet service or a computer or digital device to effectively participate in the online classes. As such, she facilitated classes at her home.
“I invited the students to come at my house on weekends and I taught them there, and it was a bit easier for them to get the work done,” Miss Bacchus said.
She noted that while at her home, the students without a computer or internet access at their home would take turn in utilizing her personal computer system to complete SBAs, research and other assignments.
Though thankful for her 100% pass rate, Miss Bacchus believes that students would improve even more should there be a farm. It was explained that in the absence of a farm at Houston, the students were required to travel to the Sophia Practical Centre to access the farms there. “We need a place to plant, we need farming space, we don’t have any space to plant, we don’t have any space to make a chicken pen,” she explained.
Kimone Gentle, the English A teacher who secured 100% passes Grades 1-4, also spoke of the many challenges the pandemic brought with it, but said her students were able to succeed due to the love and dedication she showed them.
“Dedication and commitment, those are two very important things. When it comes to teaching of any subject not only English, you have to be dedicated, you have to love your job and you have to be committed. I tried as much as possible to come down to the students’ level and that is what really helped me, I don’t stick to the high languages, because I want them to understand the content,” Miss Gentle told this newspaper.
Miss Gentle said when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Guyana in March 2020 and schools went from face-to-face learning to e-learning, her biggest stumbling block was the lack of internet access.
“We know that when the pandemic hit Guyana we weren’t ready in terms of our internet service providers but as a teacher, I don’t have internet at home and so that was a struggle for me,” she said.
After exploring various avenues, Miss Gentle approached her neighbour, who had internet service, for assistance, and ever since she has been accessing internet free of charge thanks to her neighbour.
Miss Gentle said like her, many parents were also unable acquire internet service for their children, and as such they were advised to seek assistance from neighbours, family and friends. Gentle also facilitated lessons to assist her students. However, she believes more could have been done by the Education Ministry to assist both teachers and students.
“I would like the Minister of Education, Mrs Priya Manickchand to know that we teachers are important, we are special, we play a vital role in molding of the nation’s children, and many of us we have the status teacher but we don’t have the basic need of internet services. Not because we are well suited with these clothing means that we have our basic needs, and I am a perfect example,” Miss Gentle said.
Apart from the need for internet access, the English Teacher made a case for each teacher to be provided with laptops to assist with their online classes.
“It is now more than a year that these basic needs have not been put in place,” she posited
Miss Gentle added: “We are being asked to teach online without being given these basic things, like internet service and laptops.”
The pandemic aside, the Headmaster said they are many issues plaguing Houston Secondary – a school, in which a large percentage of its student population belongs to deprived communities such as Agricola and Albouystown.
“We have an issue with space, Houston is a large population school in a small building, at the last examination we would have had 530 students cramped into this building. At the moment we have 490,” Williamson said while noting that another intake of students is expected given the release of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) results.
Further, he said the school is severely affected by noise nuisance. “Being located close to the road, traffic is a hindrance especially the trucks blowing horns, the steady siren passing, you have music blasting from vehicles, so there is a lot of distraction affecting the students. It is not just a situation where you are dealing with students coming from environments that are not psycho-social friendly for academic performance,” he explained.
That aside, the Headmaster said the school intends to place greater emphasis on Math and Science in an effort to improve the school’s performance in the two subject areas. However, he said the lack of a science lab has proven to be challenging.
“We have a science room; I wouldn’t consider it a science lab” he said, while noting that he has written the Education Ministry requesting assistance in that area. Come 2022, the school is hoping to have its students write Accounts and EDP for the very first time.
Importantly, he said through its Girls’ and Boys’ Club, the school continues to work with the students to address the social issues they confront on a daily basis.
Williamson explained that many of the students, who are drawn from deprived communities, are not slow learners, however, they are affected by the environment in which they operate.
“We have a high attendance and a number of factors would contribute to that high attendance, [for example] a lot of the students just want to get out of the home environment and so coming to school is like an escape,” he explained. It was, however, noted that some parents would have difficulties sending their children to school due lack of finance, and more than often the school would assist.
To keep the students engaged, the school places emphasis on sports and other activities.