The dysfunctional GSAT system

June 22, 2016


It is GSAT result day and excitement engulfs the air at the little primary school situated in the heart of the mosquito republic also called the United states of Portmore.

Shrieks of delight, wails of disillusionment, quiet sobs and ugly cow bawling all compete for sound space. Torrents of tears flood the classrooms, flow over into the hallways and rush out onto the school yard.

Water tek di pickney dem. Some drowning in the deluge of disappointment gushing on one side while some swimming in the rivers of joy overflowing on the other side. Children are either being congratulated or consoled by their parents and teachers, or being lauded or ridiculed by their peers

according to their results.

The atmosphere is abuzz with an excitement that feels like election, Christmas and sports day all buck up inna dem one another. Abigail is intoxicated by the energy. As she walks back to her class from the bathroom, she is drawn by the cheers and jeers emanating from 6b so she pauses for a peek. As a grade 5 student, she will go through a similar experience next year so she's really intrigued by the drama.

What she witnesses is scary. Each GSAT candidate is made to stand facing the class and publicly read out his or her results, ending with the assigned high school. Imagine the shame and trauma of some. Snickers and giggles of and moans of derision greet the sobbing students who have to announce with trembling voices that they will be attending high schools that get low ratings. And riotous applause accompanied by 'bussing of blanks' and parliament-styled desk beating reverberates for the odd child who gets an Ardenne, Immaculate, St Georges or Campion level ticket in the annual educational raffle.

One little girl is inconsolable. "Whaeeeiiii! Mi nuh waan go a dah dutty school deh" she wails, as the teacher articulates the name of her new school. Teacher tries to lighten the pain by offering something about how pretty the uniform is and how nice it will look on her. When lickle miss hear dat she holler louder. That's when teacher give up on the encouragement and start berating, "stop the crying. It too late fi dat! If you wanted to attend a good school you should have worked harder. Is what yu work fah yu get!" Is dat time di poor chile up di volume pon di bawling!

Then not too far away over in Killsome city little Richie is confused. He is happy that his mother is proud because 'him pass fi Wolmer's an dat was him first choice.' But he's now sulking as she explains that she might get him transferred to another 'not so name brand' school because she's not sure if she can manage the breed of fees and such.

Her friend suggests that she should at least find out if she can get help from the PATH program and she will have none of it. "Which PATH program? After mi nuh indigent? Mi nuh pauper! Mi nuh waan nuh teacher and nuh school come sorry fi me and mi pickney. Not because him nuh have nuh father!"

Abigail is no longer sure if she is excited or afraid. Trust mi, dah story yah sticky. If this dysfunctional system was a test paper I woulda have a hard time giving any ticky! Yes peeps, it is GSAT result time again and the children are not 'chi chi bud' but some a dem a halla and some a bawl!

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