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Friday 14 August, 2020

Counselling available for students feeling SEA stress, Garcia says

File photo. Education Minister Anthony Garcia speaks with reporters outside the Port-of-Spain headquarters of the Ministry of Education.

File photo. Education Minister Anthony Garcia speaks with reporters outside the Port-of-Spain headquarters of the Ministry of Education.

Students who may be having a difficult time coping with Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) related examination stress can get the help they need through the Education Ministry's Student Support Services.

Education Minister Anthony Garcia made the comment in response to reports that students in the St George East district were engaging in self-harm as a result of stress associated with the placement exam. 

He said while he expected a report by the end of the day on the matter, the Ministry was aware of approximately 150 students at the primary school level who have been having difficulty coping with mental stress over the SEA exam.

He was speaking with reporters following a ceremony at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) where almost 1000 persons graduated from YTEPP in 22 skills related disciplines on Tuesday.

Garcia, who said he was a bit taken back by a report that students in the St George East district were cutting themselves assured that the Ministry is treating with the matter.

Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan has requested a meeting with the guidance counsellor who made the utterances, and a complete report is expected by the end of Tuesday. 

"It is our view that not everything that was revealed is correct. And, therefore, it is important before anybody makes public pronouncements that those pronouncements are first cleared by persons who have direct responsibility for what is said."

"As Minister of Education, I hold myself to be directly responsible for everything that happens in education. But, I must confess that hearing those remarks made me wonder and therefore I had to ask our Chief Education Officer to ensure that the proper explanation is given and when I return to office I am hoping that I will receive a proper explanation for those statements," the Minister said.

When asked if it was a case of information not reaching the Ministry, Garcia said regular meetings are held with the various department heads and the matter never came up at these discussions. 

He said while he did not want it to appear as though he was making excuses he would make pronouncements "on the basis of data and on the basis of information" made available to him.

Addressing rumours that ambulances regularly visit the Naparima College in San Fernando for similar reasons, Garcia said he had no such reports.

He acknowledged that students at the CSEC and CAPE levels experience varying levels of stress and individuals deal with it differently. 

The Minister cautioned against sensationalising such an issue, saying it "is not the way we should go" in treating with such matters. 

He noted that counselling services are available through the Student Support Services Division which deals with such issues.

“While they have problems with coping they are supposed to receive support and that support comes from the members of our Student Support Division through the guidance counsellors, the clinical psychologists, all the professionals who can provide that type of support to our students.”

The Minister urged parents to be mindful of applying undue pressure to their children and to treat the SEA exam as a "normal exercise".  

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