From 1st to 2nd now back to 1st

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Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

A MIX-UP in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) top score award for 2020 has been attributed to a senior official of the Education Ministry who “exceeded the authority of their remit,” by varying the placement list without approval.

In a statement on Thursday, the ministry maintained awards for the top scorers in the SEA are based on preliminary results. “Any query by another student does not alter the preliminary placement list upon which awards are made.”

This means that 2020’s top SEA student Ameera Beekhoo will on Monday, receive the President’s Medal (Gold).

Lawyers for her parents threatened the ministry with legal action after Beekhoo got an invitation to attend the award ceremony at President’s House for the President’s Medal (Silver) which is given for the SEA student placing second overall. On October 8, 2020, the former San Fernando TML student attended an awards ceremony at the ministry where she was named the top SEA student for that year. She received a laptop, a cellphone and a bmobile internet contract.

However, on March 31 this year, an invitation sent to Principal of the San Fernando TML Wahinda Mohammed-Narine, for a ceremony on April 11 at President’s House, said Beekhoo would receive the President’s Medal (Silver) for placing second.

Another letter, also dated March 31, was sent to the principal of a private primary school in Port of Spain inviting her, her student and three guests to Monday’s ceremony to receive the President’s Medal (Gold) for placing first in the 2020 SEA exam.

The March 31 letters to the primary school principals of both students were sent by acting Chief Education Officer Lisa Henry-David. Both letters were subsequently rescinded. On Tuesday, a new letter was sent to Beekhoo and her parents, informing her she will receive the President’s Medal (Gold).

Newsday understands that parents of the other student, invited to receive the President’s Medal (Gold), had requested a re-mark/review of their son’s exam script.

Contacted on Thursday, this student’s mother said the family is “exploring all of our legal options.”

“In a press release, the ministry said, “The executive therefore views it as extremely unfortunate that a senior official exceeded the authority of their remit by varying the SEA placement list, based on reviewed results of some students, without reference to or approval from the executive.

“Further to this variation, the official proceeded to inform the parents and schools of their eligibility for awards, according to the unapproved listing, which resulted in consternation.

The release said the official was instructed to revert to the policy position and inform the parents and schools accordingly.

“As a result of this unilateral action, the achievement of the student who was rightfully announced as first placed, based on the preliminary SEA results of 2020, has been brought into question. This is highly regrettable,” the release said.

“Speaking on the mix-up, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said, “This is a most unfortunate situation, and though I am very sorry about the distress caused to both children, a precedent cannot be set by the use of reviewed results for this award, as there are other children who would have reviewed their results and have had to abide by the existing policy.”

The minister said in 2020, the ministry recognised the two students who placed top, based on preliminary results, as is the custom, and those are the two who will be awarded.

“Going forward, this system of public identification and award of the top-ranked SEA students will be reviewed.

“It is my personal view that it has outlived its usefulness, and is now an additional stressor in an already high-stress environment. My deepest apologies go out to both students, who performed excellently and should not have been subjected to this experience,” she said.

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