Students Devari Springer-Lewis and Ceilidh Bain touting the benefits of socialising at school, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (GP)

An end-of-term social for Fourth Form Harrison College (HC) students was just the right stuff needed last week to bring 160 students in that year group closer together in a formal way, and for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The brainchild of parents and a collaborative effort with form level teachers, it was welcomed by all as they witnessed the school hall become “a hive of activity”, with a variety of games, competitions, prizes and surprises that helped to bring back the missing social element.

Teachers, themselves, were the recipients of gifts, while events included musical chairs, a treasure hunt and a ‘R U The HC Fugitive?’, a take on the Digicel Fugitive, a game once played on a local radio station.  There were also spoken word presentations, a jam session with soca artiste and former Party Monarch, Mikey, and the reading of excerpts from a recently published book by canteen proprietor, Movelle Jordan, who shared with the children her story of “The Queen of Culpepper”.

Not only was the occasion one for children to win lucrative prizes, but it also showcased tasty meals prepared and served by parents, as well as a variety of sponsors, who also donated several vouchers.  It was, as one teacher put it, “not only food but fellowship”.

Ceilidh (pronounced ‘Kaylee’) Bain, a student of Form 4-6, expressing gratitude on behalf of her peers, said of the celebrations: “It doesn’t feel quite real, to be honest.  We have been to school on and off in the past two years but we haven’t had an event like this since we were in Second Form.”

As she sat next to her classmate, she exclaimed: “To be sitting close to Devari here is still unusual!  I’m like a little nervous and to be running around and to be in the hall together; we haven’t had assemblies or anything like that, so it doesn’t feel quite real.  But it is really exciting and I feel quite lucky that we are back to this, and I didn’t realise how much we had until it was gone and to not have the socialisation that we were having before it was a real deficit.  So, it feels really great to be back.”

The winner of several prizes, Ceilidh, noted how impressed she was at what her teachers had done.  She beamed: “I did not expect this at all.  I knew we were getting games but when I saw the prizes and the amount of activities and the food, and even the balloons just little things like that, they (teachers/parents) seemed to have put in quite a lot of work and it was really quite refreshing.  And, I think we are all really grateful for it as well because it is definitely needed after the two years we have had.”

Her friend, Devari Springer-Lewis, and recipient of the prize for “Best Dancer”, added: “It feels amazingly refreshing.  When we had to make the transition to all the online stuff, I didn’t really have a problem with it but as it started to become a longer and longer period where I could not get to interact with people and actually see or hear people; see persons’ body language and stuff like that, it felt like I was just really stuck.  And, I felt like I needed to express myself in some way that was not through a computer screen; so, actually getting back to doing things in person now is very exciting.”

Harrison College fourth formers enjoying tasty treats at their end-of-term social held to bring them closer together through fun, games and food. (GP)

He too registered his satisfaction with the social event and pointed out that his peers really needed it.  Devari stated: “I feel that we will all benefit from this and I feel that we all needed to get out and start doing stuff together, as one, as a body, instead of having to do it through a computer screen and through a lap top or tablet. I think it is absolutely necessary.  I think in order to build some of the most important social skills, you need to get out and do things as a team, as a body, as a group, and I think, as I said, it was very needed.”

Meanwhile, History teacher, Laura Nicholls, calling the day an amazing one, said: “I really did miss the interaction of the children, really their personalities.  They don’t translate well in the online modality but they translate perfectly in the face-to-face and then the socialisation as well, I really missed that too; I miss the students, for instance, talking to me on the campus, saying words like: ‘Ma’am how are you?’”

Alluding to the children’s behaviours and actions as they participated in the treasure hunt, Ms. Nicholls cried: “But now we are ‘outside’ –  I think that is the general feeling right now!  It’s like we are outside and we are open.  Right now you see them; they are interacting with one another so their social skills are getting sharpened, which is something that we (teachers) were really concerned about for the past couple of years.”

Stating it was also about enhancing their physical skills, she quipped: “I think this is a really good example of shareholders of education coming together (parents, teachers, students) and making something happen for our students and for ourselves as well too.  It took a lot of planning on the parents’ part and communication between each one to make this happen for our children.  I am looking forward to seeing how things are going to go next year, in terms of their educational development.”

Ms. Nicholls stressed it was a case of the students heading towards their fifth year and with CXC examinations ahead of them, “clearly looking forward to making memories”, an important aspect of their life at school.

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