'They will not be left out'
-Jeffrey says places will be found for the 5,000 SSEE pupils in limbo By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
July 8, 2004

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Children who wrote the Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations (SSEE) and have not been accommodated in the general secondary school system, will be placed appropriately, Education Minister Dr Henry Jeffrey said yesterday, insisting "they have never been left out".

Some 5,000 of the 17,000-odd children, who wrote the SSEE in April, were not allocated spots in the general secondary schools because of a lack of space as well as poor performance by most of them. Jeffrey said yesterday they would not be left out. He said they will be placed in primary tops and special schools or departments created in secondary schools for children requiring remedial education.

Stabroek News understands that the majority of the children who have not been allocated schools are in the Georgetown area, East Coast and East Bank Demerara. The majority of children who were not placed in Georgetown received scores below 344.

However, Jeffrey was adamant that the problem is a country-wide one. Stabroek News has been told that places were available in rural and hinterland secondary schools, but it would not be possible to place children from the coast in those areas.

Many areas in the hinterland regions and communities do not have secondary schools and the primary schools would have primary tops. Primary tops are supposed to be secondary departments with classes up to form three. However, in many cases there are no specific secondary programmes in place for children and the majority of them drop out of school before they reach the third form. In addition, the teachers in those schools are geared for teaching at the primary level.

When contacted yesterday acting Assistant Chief Education Officer with responsibility for Georgetown, Vibart Hart told Stabroek News that 3,035 places had been available in secondary schools in Georgetown and those had been accounted for. The Examinations Division placed 3,742 children in the various secondary schools in the city; over 700 more than there was room for.

Hart could not say how many children in the city had written the examination. He said the Georgetown Department of Education was in the process of analysing the examination and further information could be provided at a later date.

The lowest cut-off score for children allocated schools in Georgetown was 344. Below that the children would be given places at primary tops and special schools, Jeffrey said. However, Hart told Stabroek News that there are no primary schools in the city with primary tops and once the Department of Education knows exactly how many children have not been allocated schools, places would have to be found or created for them.

Even though no new secondary schools have been established in the city to deal with this problem, he said special departments were created in two city schools - Richard Ishmael and Campbellville Secondary - to accommodate some others over the past two years.

In addition, he said the Sophia Special School and St Barnabas Special School would accommodate those who would also require remedial education. The places available in the special schools and special departments amount to 400.

Hart said what is greatly needed at present, are more secondary schools and teachers. He said the huge number of children, not being allocated schools based on poor performance, was nothing new. He said the situation has been recurring for some years now and that was the main reason why former education minister, Dr Dale Bisnauth moved to introduce the Secondary Schools Reform Project (SSRP) to correct it.

One of the objectives of the SSRP was to give all secondary age children the opportunity to write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

Primary tops were removed from the system in the city with the introduction of the SSRP and community high schools (CHS) were upgraded to secondary schools. In recent years, the Ministry of Education also converted three city primary schools to secondary schools - St Winifride's, Freeburg and Tucville. These schools have all been allocated more students than the places available.

In recent years, too, there have been problems of overcrowding at some city schools including North Georgetown Secondary and St John's College. At North Georgetown Secondary the auditorium was converted to classrooms to accommodate students.

The now-abolished community high schools (CHSs) had been set up to cater for children who were not admitted to the general secondary system. CHSs were basically technical/vocational schools that catered for children who were not academically inclined.

However, they were allowed to write a proficiency examination and late achievers who obtained and maintained a certain percentage were later admitted to the general secondary schools. Some CHS students also went on to complete programmes at the Carnegie School of Home Economics or at the Govern-ment Technical Institute.