When school plants closed in March due to the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Paije Powell was a bit worried.
The 17-year-old Immaculate Conception High School graduate was in the middle of preparations for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and there were some subject syllabuses that were not complete.
She knew that she would have to do a lot of the work on her own if she wanted to do well.
“At home, I had to ensure that I had the syllabus for each subject. If there was a topic that we rushed over or we hadn’t completed or even started, I had to research it on my own and ensure that I went through past papers to see what the questions were like,” she tells Government news agency JIS.
But Paije need not have worried, as she has obtained distinctions in the nine subjects she sat this year, straight-A profiles in five.
The subjects are English language, mathematics, chemistry, biology, English literature, information technology, principles of business, principles of accounts and Spanish.
“I wasn’t shocked. I was more relieved because, before the exams, I would pray every single day and ask God ‘please provide me with these nine ones.’ I was relieved because I knew I could do it,” she tells JIS News.
Paije admits that adjusting to online classes while preparing for her exams was challenging.
“Having classes online was new to everybody – the teachers and the students – so we had to accommodate and adapt,” she says.
“It was easy to get distracted because you are not in physical school. At home, you have all these things that will take away your attention, so it was a bit harder,” she adds.
She notes, further, that through “face-to-face classes, I can bond with my teacher and have a better experience with learning. With virtual, you can’t have the one-to-one time with your teacher because it is the whole class on a Zoom call and there is so much that can distract you,” she says, adding that in school “the teacher is there to get you back in line when you get distracted”.
She notes, however, that she learnt to become more responsible and to work independently.
“You have to take it upon yourself to read your books and do research. Sometimes, the Wi-Fi at home would not work and I could not connect to a class, so I worked on my own a lot leading up to the exams,” she tells JIS News.
Paije says that when fifth-form students were asked to physically return to school in June to prepare for CSEC, she was apprehensive, as by then, cases of the virus in the island had started to rise.
She says, however, that she was glad for the opportunity.
“I did appreciate it because going back to school, we were able to review and solidify everything. We went through past papers and we were able to clarify things that we didn’t understand. I did appreciate it although it was hard to adjust, given that we had to stay six feet apart, wear a mask and leave the campus as soon as school was over,” Paije notes.
Paije says her mother, Maureen Green, was a tower of strength during her exam preparations.
“My mother, she was my main support system. She always came home and asked me how my classes were or how my School-based Assessments (SBAs) were going.
“She would always push me and tell me that ‘you are home and you have to ensure that you go to classes. Just because you are home, doesn’t mean that school is cancelled’. So she always ensured that I was ready to do what I had to do,” Paije says.
Meanwhile, Ms. Green, who describes Paije as “reserved but focused”, says she was not surprised by her daughter’s outstanding CSEC scores, as she has always been an excellent student.
Five years ago, Paije scored a 98.2 per cent average in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which earned her a place at Immaculate.
“It’s such a joy when your child does well and continues to do well. Paije is an outstanding student, so I always expect the best from her,” Ms. Green tells JIS News.
Meanwhile, Paije says she is preparing to take the Standardized Aptitude Test (SAT) for overseas college applications.
She says she wants to pursue a career in the sciences but has still not decided on a specific profession.