Guidance Counsellor at William Knibb Memorial High School in Trelawny, Carradine Kerr, says the institution is placing emphasis on safeguarding the mental health of students who have returned to school.

Schools across the island were closed in late March due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Secondary schools, as of Monday (June 8), were temporarily reopened to facilitate final preparation for the sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), scheduled to get under way on July 13.

The CSEC and CAPE refresher programme for students will come to an end on July 3.

In an interview with JIS News, Ms. Kerr highlighted that the school, in addition to putting physical measures in place to ensure students are protected from the virus on the premises, had a session with students to allay any fears they may have had about returning to school.

“Some of the students expressed that they were afraid [because] of everything going on. The school, prior to reopening, held a psychosocial session with students and parents where we shared with them strategies that they can use to cope, and we ensured that they were aware of what measures were put in place at the school [to protect them], such as hand-wash and hand-sanitisation stations,” Ms. Kerr said.

She underscored that the school is doing everything in its power to ensure that the students are mentally ready for their exams.

“We are encouraging them to move on… [and] they will need their CSEC exams to move on. They have been advised of exactly what to do, how to stay safe physically, and we assured them that we are here to support them. Even in our Guidance Department, we ensure that we set it up as a safe space that if they want to share how they are feeling, they have somewhere they can come and be comfortable,” Ms. Kerr noted.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kerr said the school will be offering support to students whose parents may have lost their employment due to the pandemic.

“We are seeking to offer support through our welfare programme here at William Knibb, to ensure that those students who have a concern may reach out to me and I will ensure that they will get the necessary help,” Ms. Kerr noted.

“In addition to that, our parent-teacher association (PTA) has been giving grants to parents who are unable to provide for their families,” she highlighted.

Ms. Kerr said that, so far, more than 40 parents have received vouchers to go to a supermarket in Falmouth, in the parish, to purchase goods.