A group of parents protested the debacle of poor grades awarded to students in this year’s CSEC and CAPE examinations by the Caribbean Examinations Council outside the Red House on Monday. While the group was small, possibly due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we hope that their words were clearly heard by Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

Almost a month since the results were issued, thousands of students, not only here in Trinidad and Tobago but across the region, remain in limbo and uncertain about their educational futures due to pending queries about the lowly grades they received.

CXC has been somewhat condescending in its insistence that the thousands of complaints are coming from students who may have had expectations well above their actual capabilities. The regional body has even suggested teachers may have been complicit in this overconfidence on the part of students.

However, based on an overwhelming preponderance of complaints, while not proven due to CXC’s not admitting to an issue with the marking process, we have to admit something was amiss this year. There has, after all, never been such an overwhelming cry from the entire region over the integrity of the process in CXC’s near 50-year history.

In fact, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley was so convinced by the information she has been given that she has stood by her citizens and announced her government will pay the query fees for all their students. This media house understands Minister Gadsby-Dolly was contemplating such a decision on behalf of T&T students earlier this week before regional education ministers asked CXC to consider waiving the query fees altogether. CXC has until today to indicate whether it will do so.

These overtures, however, may be of little solace to the students. The damage has already been done thanks to the protracted process CXC has undertaken in addressing the complaints of regional ministers on behalf of students.

In the interim, students preparing to go into Sixth Form have been denied such opportunities or been forced to chose different options due to the poor grades they received. Students hoping to enter universities are worse off, since while some institutions have extended registration deadlines others have not and moved on to others in line.

In other words, CXC’s dragging of its feet on this matter may possibly so traumatise the thousands of students involved in the current debacle that some of them may never fully recover.

It is this type of trauma associated with the lower level Secondary Entrance Examination that has Minister Gadsby-Dolly preparing to go back to the public to decide where it should be discontinued.

Needless to say, CXC needs to expedite the current process in a way which is transparent and satisfactory to all its stakeholders – chief of whom are students desperately seeking closure.

Either way, decades of work by a regional body has taken a major hit and we hope we will not eventually have to say it too is another victim of the pandemic.