Jamaica Community Empowerment

White Marl Primary & Junior High School is Pleased with Its Improvement in GSAT Exams

August 21, 2008

USAID-COMET & GoGSAT Stimulate Youth Development In White Marl/Central Village

Kingston, Jamaica – July 14, 2008:

White Marl Primary and Junior High School in St. Catherine is expressing satisfaction at the upward trend in the performance of its students in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). The school attributes this exciting achievement to the technology-based aid that the students now have at their fingertips – the online practice tests run by USAID -Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project and the e-learning company, GoGSAT.

Teacher and Coordinator of the Programme at White Marl Primary & Junior High, Tamzeene Blake, says over 65% of the students who participated in the programme between January and March this year, received excellent grades in the GSAT exams. The students gain free access to the online exam coaching services of GoGSAT. The USAID-COMET Project pays the subscription rates of each student, who is required to go online for at least 2 hours and 40 minutes each week. Every time they log-on at the White Marl Primary and Junior High, they receive timed practice tests to build their familiarity with the material and the process for GSAT Exams.

Reflecting on the first phase of the programme, which ended in March, Mrs. Blake notes that it fostered an enthusiasm among the students and parents towards the GSAT preparations and GSAT in general. “We had some challenges at first with the internet system since we initially used dial-up service, but that was subsequently sorted out. The students remained eager to participate in the programme,” reports Mrs. Blake. “The programme is a very good one. It is really a comprehensive set of material that the children can use – not just for GSAT. It is also useful for students who are entrants to high school.”

She is also upbeat about the new phase of the project which will see 45 Grade Five students (who will move to Grade 6 in September) joining the programme: “I expect this set of students now to perform better than we had last year, because they will have more time working on the project.” Top GSAT achiever at the school, Lathesia Hamilton, received a cash grant of $3,000 from USAID-COMET & GoGSAT for her outstanding performance. Lathesia walked away with 98% in Maths, 98% in Language Arts, 96% in Science, 92% in Social Studies and 9 out of 12 in Communication Tasks in the GSAT Exams. After receiving her prize at Monday’s Launch of the second phase of GoGSAT, Lathesia remarked, “It has helped me tremendously. I was weak in Language Arts, especially in writing skills, but I improved a lot with those practice tests.”

Banado Plunkett, the White Marl Primary & Junior High boy who performed most outstandingly in GSAT, has his sights set on becoming a Mechanical Engineer. Like Lathesia, the GoGSAT practice tests assisted him in improving Language Arts, especially in terms of parts of speech. He will be attending Meadowbrook High, and as a lover of Maths and Science, he is looking forward to joining the Science & Environment Club at that high school.

Michelle Watson, GoGSAT Representative, told participants in Monday’s Launch that her organization is committed to giving children and teachers relevant resource material for assisting the learning process in Jamaica’s educational institutions.

Sharene McKenzie, Civil Society Specialist, USAID-COMET, says the GoGSAT Project is an investment in the future of Jamaica. Noting that USAID-COMET is providing support to the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Social Development Commission for the rollout of Community Based Policing islandwide, she indicated that the provision of improved educational opportunities would not only act as a catalyst for more socio-economic viability for residents, but will in the long-term assist in creating safer communities.

The USAID-COMET Project was launched in Grants Pen in March 2006, and was extended to Flanker and Central Village/White Marl during 2007. Its mandate is to spearhead sustainable community transformation in select inner-city areas, through economic support and social intervention.

USAID’s development programme for Jamaica is helping to create a more competitive business environment, enhance the education and health of the population, preserve biodiversity and foster environmentally sustainable rural development and create safer communities.

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