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A passerby walks past the closed Ishmael M Khan and Sons Book Store on Henry Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Following recent announcements that school-leaving examinations at both the primary and secondary levels would be postponed until July 1 and June 28 respectively, concerns are being expressed by parents as to how students will be able to obtain the necessary stationery needed for these exams as restrictions are to remain in place until July 4.

The Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam which was scheduled for primary school students on June 10, will now take place on July 1; while the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) and the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) for secondary school students, will now begin on June 28.

The delays were granted in light of the record numbers of new daily COVID-19 infections that continue to be recorded.

And while the government has enforced a State of Emergency (SoE) in a further attempt to stem the viral spread – and has ordered only essential businesses such as groceries and pharmacies to remain operational at this time, anxious students are questioning how they are to get the supplies they need to complete their exams.

One parent said, “My daughter will be writing the CSEC examinations in the coming weeks and I would like to know if provisions will be made for the temporary opening of book stores.”

“She requires specific pencils for multiple-choice, a geometry pan and a calculator. Students pursuing art would require a lot more.”

Responding to these concerns, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said while the matter of the regulations is not under the purview of the Ministry of Education, priority focus remained concentrated on reducing the COVID-19 numbers.

She reinforced, “It is for this reason that the request has been made and granted for a postponement of the start of the examinations.”

The minister is hopeful that this measure, “Allows a bit more time for relaxation of the restrictions which will allow for the replenishing of stocks for the exams.”

Another parent suggested the MOE continue to provide the students writing the SEA with the usual pouch containing two pencils, an eraser, a sharpener and a ruler to be used during the exam – which would remove the need by thousands of parents to visit book stores to acquire the supplies themselves.

And for the older students, she advised, “The regular stationery items can be provided by the ministry this year and for those students who require additional supplies depending on their subjects, their school principal should be allowed to issue a list that is signed and stamped to these parents, itemising what is needed and the quantities.”