by Marlon Madden
“Fix our grades!”
That was the demand from dozens of angry students to officials of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) today.
Growing disquiet among students over recently released CAPE and CSEC examination grades spilled over into a peaceful protest action from dozens of students who gathered outside the entrance of the regional examination body this afternoon at Pine Plantation Road, St. Michael.
The protesters, some of whom were clad in uniforms, were made up primarily of students from Combermere, Harrison College and Queen’s College, with support from several teachers and parents.
The placard-bearing crowd started their protest under the watchful eyes of members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, clapping and shouting slogans such as “fix our grades” and “save our students”.
One of the organizers of the protest, Khaleel Kothdiwala, told Barbados TODAY he was hoping that at the end of their protest action CXC would give them a listening ear and review the grades, since those issued were below what the students were expecting and certainly did not reflect the hard work they had put in.
Describing the widespread disappointing grades in this year’s CXC exams both at the CSEC and CAPE levels as “a very serious issue”, Kothdiwala insisted “it needs addressing”.
“I think CXC ought to meet with some students. CXC ought to meet with teachers. Students and teachers both agreed by this. They can’t continue as business as usual. What has happened this year is unprecedented, and the solution therefore must be unprecedented,”
“What has obtained is iniquitous. As a matter of fact, it is an injustice to students and to teachers, many of whom have put in the hard work and this is the pay they have received out of it. That is not good enough. We want CXC to listen to us. We hope they will come to their senses and listen to us,”
He said depending on what decision was made by the governing examination body in the coming days, a follow up protest could emerge.
“Until then we will continue action. That action could come in all manners and forms, not only in protesting. We have other things in train. It would be wise for CXC and the governments of this region to listen to us. This situation cannot continue,” he said.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw issued a call to the CXC top brass on Wednesday asking for an “urgent investigation” into the concerns over the
exam results, which were released on Tuesday.
This was in addition to a petition started by students, that have garnered thousands of signatures.
However, in a swift response, Registrar of CXC Wayne Wesley insisted that was not going to happen, and indicated that CXC had no intention of waving review fees.
He insisted that any students with queries should use the process by submitting a query and a request for review through schools or in-school candidates through the Ministry of Education in the case of private students.
In a strong rebuke of the CXC response, Kothdiwala said it was nothing short of being “nonchalant”.
“It was as though nothing was out of the ordinary,” he said.
He argued that while every year students query grades, this year was different given the level of confusion.
“So that the response cannot be ordinary. That response was far from acceptable and not suitable, and certainly not a good reflection of a regional institution. CXC as an examining body, relies on the integrity of their results. Right now the views on the integrity of those results in the international community
is in doubt,” he said.
Kothdiwala issued a call for reforms at the examination body that would be for the long-term, pointing out that the issues regarding grades were not new.
“The issues have been pernicious and they have been clawing at the surface for decades with the Caribbean Examinations Council, and it is high time perhaps that we use this opportunity – in every crisis there is an opportunity – to solve the problems that have plagued CXC and have become so manifested in the last three days,” he recommended.
He agreed that while the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on how exams were delivered, it also resulted in students and teachers putting in “extra hard work”.
“We have suffered enough from COVID-19, we have suffered enough – parents have lost their jobs, students in Barbados have had to rely upon the charity of the ministry of education and the private sector to donate tablets so they could learn during the time they were off. During all that time people have put in the work and these are not the results that can come out of that hard work. They are not commensurate to that,” he said.
Barbados TODAY understands that the parent teachers’ association of several schools have already met on the matter and could be formulating a plan should CXC refuse to do a review of the grades.
One parent of a lower sixth form student, told Barbados TODAY that given the widespread concern he believed the demands for an investigation and review of the grades were justified.
“To my mind, the response coming back from CXC to a minister of government, our minister of education, basically said ‘we are not relooking it and we are not waving the fee to have it done’, speaks volume to how CXC views themselves and how they view the parents and the children,” said Neil Weekes.
Weekes said what was most upsetting for him was that the future of thousands of students now “hangs in the balance” since some students have now been rejected from universities or lost scholarships due to the grades they received.
Weekes said he was willing to support the students until they get satisfaction.
“These are people who were on scholarship watches and their scholarships are gone, their dreams of going to university are gone. If it is that they didn’t do well, then so be it.
‘This is COVID-19 pandemic period and anything can happen, but don’t take the approach of basically ‘screw you, it is what it is and if you want to get it redone you are going pay $60 and we are going to tally up the marks and you get the same grade. That is not good enough,” he said.