Hard work and diligence have paid off for 28 students, who were recently recognised by the Universal Service Fund (USF) for outstanding performance in the 2021 Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations.
The top-performing students, one boy and one girl from every parish, were each presented with a laptop computer by USF to assist them in virtual learning, which has become necessary due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The presentation took place during a ceremony at the Altamont Court in New Kingston recently.
In an interview with JIS News, Maleek Simpson, who is the top boy for Clarendon, expressed delight.
He noted that he was surprised by the recognition. “I didn’t expect it at all,” he said.
Sharing his preparation strategy leading up to the examinations, which took place in May, Maleek told JIS News that he placed a lot of emphasis on revision.
“Sometimes it was stressful because I studied a lot, like late nights and early morning,” he shared.
A former student of Knox Junior School, Maleek is currently enrolled in his first-choice institution – Knox College.
He tells JIS News that selecting Knox College was the continuation of a family tradition, as most of his relatives attended the institution.
The aspiring engineer encourages students to work hard and remain committed to their studies. “Work hard because it is going to pay off some day. Someone might recognise what you are doing and give you a scholarship,” he says.
Expressing pride in her son’s accomplishment, Fiona Carter-Simpson shares that she provided all the resources needed to ensure that Maleek would have been adequately prepared for the examination.
“I am elated, super excited. In terms of preparation… there were times when I thought he should be studying but he was otherwise minded, but then overall, I realised that it paid off, and I am just really proud of him,” she told JIS News.
Similarly, top female performer for the parish of Westmoreland, Jaden Drummond, who attends the St. James-based Mount Alvernia High School, said that several factors contributed to her success.
“I feel very happy. I remember just taking notebooks and looking over the notes that the teacher gave us, along with doing some activities that were in the textbooks that we hadn’t gone through and my father explaining the stuff to me.
“We also got a whiteboard and some markers so he could actually show me diagrams that he worked out [problems] on the board and that helped me to understand things even better,” shares the graduate of New Horizon Preparatory.
Camray Drummond told JIS News that he is overjoyed with his daughter’s results. He noted that in light of the pandemic, extra hours were devoted to assisting Jaden to ensure that she comprehended the material.
“It was a lot of hours doing homework… it took quite a bit; you …didn’t have teachers being around all the time so you, as a parent, had to become a teacher and I am really very, very happy.
“We came all the way from Westmoreland [for the awards ceremony]… . We got up early, but it was worth the drive and I was very ecstatic. Family members are also very happy with the success,” he shares.
Mr. Drummund is encouraging parents and guardians to be supportive of their children and assist them as much as possible, so that they can achieve their full potential.
“For other parents out there, just be a part of your child’s life; encourage them, push them to be the best that they can be and they will get the results,” he says.
The other recipients are Kayla Callum and Abraham Waugh for Kingston; Kyla Campbell, Antoine Campbell from St. Andrew; Dajanique Hylton, Jalil Douglas of St. Thomas; Alexander Lee, Dajonelle Murray from Portland; Azuka Nduka, Morgan Gordon – St. Mary; Takaylia Robinson, Camron Betton from St. Ann; Kenneil Walker, Nateisha Richards – Trelawny; Giselle-Ann Swaby, Veerendra Biragie – St. James; Altania Lawrence, Daniel Johnson – Hanover; Sai Pydipalli – Westmoreland; Sydonia Nembhard, Zane Thompson – St. Elizabeth; Chun Shen, Jantje Livermore – Manchester; Kayana Edwards – Clarendon; and Kyle Walker and Lakaya Brown from St. Catherine.
In congratulating the top performers, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Hon. Daryl Vaz, urged them to set big goals for themselves, apply themselves to their studies, aggressively pursue their dreams and never settle for mediocrity.
“We are proud of your achievements thus far. Your work has proven that you are capable and have potential and ability to change not just your life but also transform this nation,” Minister Vaz said.
He said he was pleased that the USF has been instrumental in providing funding and resources to increase access to Internet connectivity and the provision of devices.
“At a time when remote learning has often replaced face-to-face instruction, the ownership of a device and Internet connectivity are crucial to the educational advancement of our children,” he pointed out.
Mr. Vaz said that COVID-19 has significantly impacted the nation’s children, noting that the pandemic has made it clear that an education system powered by technology is the only way forward.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Fayval Williams, congratulated the students, noting that they have displayed resilience, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
“I am delighted that, once again, we are able to collaborate with the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide these devices that can aid your learning and give you the exposure to information and communications technology (ICT) in particular,” she said.
She encouraged the students to stay on track and remain focused on their studies.
Chief Executive Officer, USF Daniel Dawes, in his remarks noted that the annual presentation of laptops is one of the ways in which the entity supports the development of a digital society.
“The USF takes special interest in our students because we believe that if we are to develop the skills required for a digitally inclusive economy, we must start at the root of our society, and that is our children,” he said.
Principal of Ardenne High School, Nadine Molloy, urged the students, as they embrace the technology, not do so at the expense of relationships with their classmates, teachers and parents.
“Do not embrace technology in such a way that it becomes all about you; you are still a part of a community,” she said.
She urged the children to be careful when they are online and encouraged parents to be even more supportive of their children and/or ward(s). “They are becoming more independent… . It can’t be that you leave them up to the Internet to parent them; pay keen attention,” she advised.
A total of 37,139 students sat the grade-six Ability Test component of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which was administered on May 26.
Placement of students in high schools was done using the test scores combined with the results of the grade-four Performance Task exams in Language Arts and Mathematics that the students took in 2019.
The changes were brought about by restrictions to contain the spike in cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19).