NASSAU, BAHAMAS – In a normal school year, 12th graders around the country would be getting ready for final exams and looking forward to highly anticipated traditions – including graduation and prom.
However, this year, due to the local spread of the novel coronavirus and the global pandemic, several students share their frustration, disappointment and anxiety over their future post-COVID-19.
Trent McIntosh Jr, a 17-year-old senior at Queen’s College, said he envisioned a different experience for his 12th grade year.
“I feel a sense of uncertainty with the pandemic now as it relates to my future,” Trent told Eyewitness News in a recent interview.
“I think I speak for everyone where we feel everything is still up in the air.
“Some people have already been accepted into college and are now hearing that their college has pushed back for another semester.
“And you have other people who maybe wasn’t taking the college route and planned to work at a company or a job…but there’s job uncertainty as well.
“It’s a very uncomfortable feeling.”
While he still plans to attend the University of The Bahamas in the Fall semester, Trent said it is still a very tough time not knowing what could happen.
The young man, who also runs his own promotional company called VISION, said the hardest part has been realizing that he and his classmates will miss out on all of the activities they have rightfully earned after years of schooling.
“I think I speak for all seniors when I say that it’s a heartbreaking experience to think those things may not happen,” Trent said.
“You spend your whole life from the first grade dreaming of those things, dreaming of prom, dreaming of graduation, being able to walk across the stage, take a picture, get your diploma and make those last memories with your friends.
“…It’s a sad thing that we can’t experience those traditions because of this pandemic.”
As for how he has been coping with the new normal, Trent said the first few weeks were difficult given the rigorous work load.
However, he said the remote school system has been sufficient in ensuring that they don’t feel left behind or disadvantaged.
The government announced the closure of schools on March 15, after the first confirmed case of the virus in the country and declared a state of emergency days later.
On Monday, a resolution extending the state of emergency and emergency regulations was passed. Schools are expected to remain closed until further notice.
Sierra Ferguson, a 16-year-old senior at Aquinas College said she has also been conflicted over the major adjustments in her final year.
Sierra, the school’s deputy head girl, said the learning process has not changed despite operational changes.
“I feel like I’m actually working harder than when I was actually in school,” she joked.
But Sierra admitted that she too is unsure what will happen after COVID-19.
“Everyone is expecting to return to normal but what is normal now,” she said.
“Obviously, we have to make some changes, some drastic improvements. I’m trying to keep the hope alive.”
Sierra said while she and her classmates are looking forward to receiving their diplomas, missing all of their senior activities is still a hard blow.
“Obviously I feel quite disappointed because the activities that I looked forward to since the seventh grade are now being postponed or canceled and also the inability to see my teachers and my schoolmates, that’s kind of heartbreaking as well,” she added.
“During this difficult time, I trust in God more and I believe that he will see me through.”
Sierra also plans to attend UB in the fall. She noted that even though she was hoping to get a part-time job, the possibility of that also seems grim.
Another senior from C.R. Walker said her challenge has been the uncertainty of final exams.
The senior did not want to be named, but told Eyewitness News that since the closure of schools there have been issues in communicating with some of her teachers as it relates to coursework.
Due to this and other concerns, the public school student said she is afraid she may have to shift her plans given the uncertainty of whether national exams will be conducted.
She noted that she planned to work for a semester to save money for books and other necessities and enroll at UB in the Spring.
The Ministry of Education has remained tight-lipped on whether it will cancel national examinations including BJCs and BGCSEs.
But Director of Education Marcellus Taylor noted that the delay and hesitation to cancel the exit exams have been centered around the dilemma that students will need those credentials to join the workforce or get into a tertiary institution.
“What it is we are in is a situation where we really don’t know what the outcome will be for many things that are beyond education at this point,” Taylor told Eyewitness News.
“But as soon as we stabilize, as soon as we get a window, we intend on exercising as much as possible, whatever options we have to give the students an opportunity to demonstrate what they know and get a credential from it.”
He continued: “For those who will need the BGCSEs, they should work hard, prepare themselves, because we are hoping as soon as we get a chance that we would be able to put on the BGCSE and then after that there are options and the University of the Bahamas is a real option for students who want to go to university.
The government introduced a free tuition program at the university last September, guaranteeing free education to any Bahamian who meets the criteria.
Taylor insisted that in this current climate, young people ought to be flexible and prepared, and try to take advantage of some of the new opportunities that might present themselves.
As for the activities that those senior students may not be able to experience, Taylor said, “They will have to find ways to deal with that within the ambit of whatever happens.
“If we are still in a time where social distancing is what we have to do and there are limits, then they will have to find creative ways to celebrate within the scope of whatever we can do.”