Inner-city youths get help with GSAT!

SCORES of inner-city students are finding it easier to prepare for their Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) project and the e-learning company, GoGSAT. “The project offers an opportunity for youth to extend their reach and build a better future for themselves,” said Bertrand Laurent, director of USAID-COMET.

Their partnership with GoGSAT began in mid-January and is benefiting 270 youths from Grants Pen, St Andrew; Flanker, St James; and White Marl/Central Village, St Catherine. They are getting free access to the online exam-coaching services of GoGSAT for a one-year period. The USAID-COMET project pays the subscription rates of the students, and all they have to do is go to the cyber centres for at least two hours and 40 minutes each week. Each time they log on at the centres, they receive timed practice tests to build their familiarity with the material and the process for GSAT exams. “We are preparing 45 grade-six students from each of the three communities for the upcoming GSAT exams, and when they are finished with that exam, we will begin to train another 135 students (that is 45 from each of the communities) who are now in Grade five,” said Shalette East, GoGSAT’s vice president of operations. East added that GoGSAT had trained the teachers and/or centre managers who will administer the programme. “Students have a Help Desk, at which they can seek answers to questions online, and get those answers in 24 hours. They also have a Chatroom, on which they can log on and speak with a tutor live, between 5pm and 7pm,” she said in a release to the media. Teachers/centre managers, meanwhile, can also keep track of their grades and progress in preparing for GSAT, through a special facility called a ‘grade-book’ system.

Schools in the targeted communities assist in the selection of the students – 20 per cent of those selected were performing above average, 60 per cent were average and 20 per cent were performing below average prior to the GoGSAT venture. “We will also be administering a survey for teachers so they can indicate what level of improvement they have noticed in the students, during the programme,” East said. Students from the Grants Pen area who attend New Day Primary and Junior High, Shortwood Practising, and Constant Spring Primary Schools are involved in the programme which operates out of the community’s cyber centre at the Grants Pen community policing station.

Nelka Clarke, administrator for the centre, is pleased with the enthusiasm of the children. “Over the years, the performance by the Grants Pen students in GSAT Exams, has not been satisfactory and so the GoGSAT programme will be of tremendous help. We want a 100 per cent improvement in the performance of the children,” Clarke said. In Montego Bay, the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre as well as the Flanker Primary School and Junior High School serve as the hub for the programme. Marilyn Nash, director of the Flanker Peace & Justice Centre, said the USAID-COMET/GOGSAT project gave students who were unable to pay for extra lessons at school “a boost in their academics”.

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