Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Seaforth rises from ashes with 100% passes in art

Published:Thursday | August 22, 2019 | 12:13 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Ryan McDonald, who received a grade one in the CSEC visual arts.
Ryan McDonald’s self-portrait, which he lost in the fire.
Ryan McDonald displays a piece of his artwork which was later destroyed in the blaze.
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Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, the Visual Arts Department at Seaforth High School in St Thomas, which was completely destroyed by fire in May, is now boasting a 100 per cent pass result in this year’s Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) exams.

The razing of the multiaward-winning department, a symbol of pride at the school, had left students and staff in despair, having to go back to the drawing board to ensure that projects that had been destroyed were redone in time for the external exams.

Having weathered the storm, and copping a perfect pass rate, arts teacher Caroline Miles is elated.

She related how the department was able to rise from the ashes.

“At first, classes were held under a tree, but with quick response from the principal, Calbert Thomas; the bursar, Noel Williamson; chairman, Charles Stewart; the Ministry of Education; and our member of parliament, James Robertson, a place was quickly prepared to accommodate us.

“Schools in the area loaned us their furniture and Serge Island contributed industrial fans to assist with the heat and over $100,000. Many stakeholders donated materials, tools, and equipment for the redoing of our exam preparation pieces,” Miles told The Gleaner.

However, before attempting to recreate these pieces, the school had to cater to the psyche of the students, who had become demotivated.

“Four days after the fire, a destressing exercise was done with students at the Russell’s Paradise Resort in Yallahs, which gave them a day pass for relaxation and access to the pool. Transportation was provided free of cost by Hopeton George of Keystone Tours. Our principal and retired navy pilot Ryan Harris also did motivational talks with them,” Miles said, adding that several others offered their assistance in hosting workshops for the students.

The passionate teacher, who admitted to having had to overcome her own devastation in order to motivate her students, is now breathing a sigh of relief.

Emotional breakdown

One of her students, Ryan McDonald, who copped a grade one, told The Gleaner that the constant help from his teacher and the various motivational exercises are what powered him to success.

“I had an emotional breakdown after the fire. To think that my journal of pieces was at home and I was told to carry them to school so I could work on finishing them up, then a few days after, I heard everything was destroyed, I felt uninspired,” McDonald said. “All my pieces were burnt – even my favourite work, which was a self-portrait that I spent a lot of time on.”

McDonald explained that he wasn’t completely confident in the pieces he finally submitted as he had wanted more time to work on them.

Shocked by his exceptional grade, the 17-year-old, who will be moving on to his institution’s sixth-form programme, shared a word of encouragement.

“It doesn’t matter how things might look, we can always recover from the situation,” he said.

The principal has revealed that $28 million was allocated by the Ministry of Education for the reconstruction of the ruined school block, which could be ready for the new academic year.

“The contract was signed and the work is now in progress,” Thomas said. “The men have been working day and night to get it done. We are expecting it to be ready for the start of school, but if not, I believe that by then, at least 90 per cent of the work will be done and the block ready for use by mid-September.”

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