On Monday morning, September 14th, 2020, national examinations resumed at Ministry of Education (MOE) school locations throughout the Bahamas, and Eleuthera was no exception.
One of the high school campuses on mainland Eleuthera, reported that the exam center there, saw an average of just 42% of candidates for the two examinations hosted on Monday. Administrators commented that they were encouraging all registered students to show up for their scheduled BGCSE or BJC exam. Students were asked to be properly groomed and uniformed, and they confirmed that buses were running from the bus stops in the settlements throughout Eleuthera every morning, with scheduled returns after exams were finished for the day.
Concerns about health and safety measures on MOE campuses during national examinations were addressed in a statement, released by the Ministry of Education on Sunday, September 13th. The statement, which came just ahead of the Monday, September 14th start date for the resumption of national examinations, refuted public assertions that conditions were unsafe in Ministry of Education schools.
Minister of Education, the Hon. Jeffery Lloyd on Monday morning, September 14th also released a video statement, with an inspirational message to encourage students sitting for their national exams. See the video link below this article.
The full MOE statement read as follows:
“The Ministry of Education categorically refutes public assertions by Mrs. Belinda Wilson the President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers that there are unsafe conditions in Ministry of Education schools, due to the presence of persons with COVID 19 infections in several of those schools. These assertions are designed to create public panic among teachers, students and parents, in pursuit of the BUT President’s selfish goal of derailing the National Examinations, which are to be held from Monday, 14th September – Tuesday, 6th October, due to her personal opposition to them.
In this regard, the Ministry is deeply aggrieved by the fact that the BUT President would seek to deprive children of this vital opportunity, and while this behavior is not unexpected, it is particularly regrettable that such action would be taken at a time when we should all be pulling together as a country to advance national development in the midst of the worldwide COVID crisis.
The Ministry therefore assures the general public, including educators, staff, parents and students sitting the National Examinations, that all Ministry of Education facilities and schools, including those being utilized for the National Examinations, are safe, and that persons need not fear for their safety.
The Ministry of Education reminds the public that the Competent Authority, namely the Prime Minister, has, in consultation with the Ministry of Health, determined that National Exams may be held.
The Ministry of Health and the Department of Environmental Health Services have also mandated clear procedures and protocols for addressing persons and contacts of persons with diagnosed COVID 19 infections, and for buildings occupied by persons suspected of being COVID 19 infected. These requirements are designed to preserve both individual and public health and safety, with which the Ministry of Education has always complied in respect of all persons, and for all Ministry of Education buildings. Accordingly, the Ministry of Education hereby confirms that while there have been reported cases of persons with COVID 19 infections at a few MOE schools, those premises were vacated and were subsequently cleaned and sanitized by Environmental Monitoring and Risk Assessment Division (EMRAD) certified COVID 19 cleaning teams, in accordance with the Department of Environmental Health requirements, and are safe for all persons to occupy, including, where applicable, for the administration of national examinations, beginning on Monday, 14th September. The public is also reminded that in compliance with Ministry of Health protocols, persons who may have been exposed to a confirmed COVID individual are required to undergo COVID 19 testing, and to submit to quarantine conditions, which then removes such persons from contact with the general public.
The Ministry of Education further assures the public and school based staff that all necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaners and sanitizers, are in place at all Government Schools as required, and that regular cleaning and proper sanitization are being undertaken by Custodial staff, all of whom have undergone the required COVID 19 cleaning training by the Department of Environmental Health Services. We especially encourage teachers not to be persuaded by the antagonistic pronouncements coming from Mrs. Wilson, which do not comply with Ministry of Health guidelines, and we invite all Ministry of Education Officers to review the Ministry of Health website for themselves, which provides specifically that 3ft. social distancing is permitted between desks within classrooms, provided masks are worn by students. Teachers are also encouraged to review the EMRAD requirements for buildings, which are posted on the Ministry of Education’s Facebook page. Lastly, all persons who had occasion to be on school campuses before exams were postponed will recall that all necessary signage has been erected to ensure that persons have clear directions on how they are to move about on those campuses.
The Ministry of Education continues to emphasize the importance of the National Examinations for the students who have registered for them. We therefore expect that all school based staff will fulfill their responsibilities in this regard, and encourage all parents and guardians to support their children in this critical endeavor.”
The resumed Bahamas National Examinations schedule for the period of September 14th to October 6th can be found here.
See video message released by Minister of Education, Jeffery Lloyd immediately below: