BURSTS of laughter filled the Arcadia Primary School in Eastern St Thomas for Language Arts Explosion as 35 students received language arts PEP classes at a free five-day initiative which ran August 15-19, 2022.
This initiative was spearheaded by mother-daughter educator duo Sharon Mitchell and Roshane Reid, who are native residents of Arcadia District, St Thomas. While the classes were focused on language arts, specifically sentence and paragraph construction, they also featured integrated lessons that captured mathematics, religious education, science and social studies for grades four, five and six students.
“Some persons might be wondering why there is an emphasis on PEP during the summer. This is because preparation for PEP begins from infant school. It is not something you prepare for with marathon, Easter or extra classes. Favourable educational outcomes in the PEP exam are hinged on a solid foundation. So, we thought it was a good idea to help students shape up for PEP prior to the commencement of the new academic year,” said the mother-daughter duo.
This activity is the brainchild of Reid, an adjunct lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica, who revealed that the idea for these free language arts PEP classes came to her while she was hand washing at the back of her home.
Reid explained that at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, “a number of emotions engulfed me, and I was extremely worried for our nation’s children, many of whom did not access structured classes. As a result, severe learning loss occurred due to a myriad of issues such as unavailability of Internet, lack of devices or infrequent/unstructured classes. COVID-19 disrupted many areas of life in the education sector”.
“As a lecturer, I am all too familiar with the writing abilities of adults, many of whom are youth,” Reid continued. This, she bemoans, is oftentimes below the required level to absorb the course content offered in academic writing courses plagued by challenges experienced, in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure and expression.
“I wondered to myself, if so many of our Jamaican children were unable to access education in a meaningful way during the pandemic, what will the quality of university students be like in years to come? I believe we have to arrest the challenges with our education system to significantly reverse the learning loss that occurred. The identification and implementation of accessible, standardised national programmes for reversing this loss is paramount as we move forward in the new academic year,” she reflected.
Mitchell, a lecturer at the International University of the Caribbean, added that she reached out to her 179 Mico batchmates and colleague justices of the peace at the St Thomas Lay Magistrates’ Association, some of whom pledged contributions.
In expressing gratitude, she stated that “we must give every thanks to our main sponsors — Supermix Distributors in Morant Bay; Kem-Lo Superette in Hampton Court; Lat-tan’s Party Supplies in Port Morant; Steele’s One Stop Machine Works & Supplies in Arcadia; Taste of Home by Yash in Florida and Maxine McPherson, as well as several individual donors, for this to be a reality. I am just elated and extremely grateful that one, one cocoa really filled our baskets and we were able to host this event.”
She further explained that each day featured a motivational speaker on topical issues, as well as pastors.
“We want to thank the pastors from the various churches that volunteered to take devotions daily — Rev Errol Scott, Rev Glen Nixon, Pastor Darlene McCalla and Elder Lucan Turner. This activity would not be a success without the speakers who volunteered their time, which include the National Council on Drug Abuse’s Substance Abuse Counsellor for St Thomas Marisha Burgess; attorney-at-law Karyl Ray; teacher at Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls Nadia Elliott; and Corporal Granville Welch. Most importantly, we thank the teachers of the Arcadia Primary & Infant School, Mrs Kaymarie Hamilton-Forrest and Ms Racquel McIntosh, and other volunteers who contributed in various ways.”
Kahera Henry, a grade five student at the Port Morant Primary & Junior High School, expressed her gratitude for the event and said, “Language Arts Explosion was fantastic. I learnt about organising body paragraphs and transition words which helped me to improve my writing. The food was great. I enjoyed every day of it.”