Posted on




In 2004 the England-based children’s hotline, ChildLine declared a drastic increase in calls relating to exam pressure. The charity, founded in 1986 operates a round the clock counseling service for children with a wide range of needs. ChildLine’s volunteers took over 900 calls related to exam stress in 2004 alone.

So does this stress affect only British children? What about Vincentians? SEARCHLIGHT HEALTH spoke with one of this year’s top CXC performers Atiah Stephens about her journey in the education system and its accompanying stress.{{more}}

In Britain the stress is so much that some young people become suicidal. Here in St Vincent, Atiah was determined not to be caught up on that rollercoaster when she commenced her CXC programme.

So just how did she do it?

“I knew I could not be perfect at everything and did not try to be,” the confident former Girls’ High School student beamed.

She recalled seeing friends reach boiling point and others walking around school, their shoulders sagging under the heavy weight of exams. Her words of encouragement, urging them to take a break, fell on deaf ears.

Both her parents are educators. Her mother Grethel is a teacher. Her father Asfo is a former principal and now an official in the education ministry. It would be easy to understand how her parent would have drilled study habits into her psyche but parental pressure was never part of the process.

“My parents encouraged me to work hard but never seemed dissatisfied with what I did at the end of the day,” she said as she relaxed at home.

This approach was one that is usually promoted on speciality websites dealing with parenting – listen to your children, reassure them with loving support and shun condemnation.

As for the confident Atiah, who did not miss a beat during her interview with SEARCHLIGHT HEALTH her motto was quite simple, even at exam time….when she has had enough she just stopped and relaxed.

“I never fussed over marks, I did my best and that’s it,” she said matter of factly, shrugging her shoulders as if to reinforce the point.

It is a widely accepted notion that teenagers are prime peer pressure targets and often the lure of competition can have a damning effect on a child who measures his worth by his placing in a class exam.

Atiah views it differently. She sees her major competition as herself, she said recalling with laughter a young man who told her that he would be her biggest competition when they got to the Community College.

The thoughts of Atiah Stephens are quite interesting when one considers that a couple weeks ago 18-year-old Ravi Abbey was laid to rest in a heart wrenching service at the St George’s Cathedral. On August 30th he took his father’s gun, locked himself in a room and shot himself in the head.

As many, including his former principal at the Bishop’s College in Kingstown and his family pondered the possible motivation for his action the only theory, endorsed by his parents is that he might have been depressed. He had learnt that because of his latest examination failure he was to be transferred to the multi purpose institute in Campden Park.

Principal Rouse confirmed to SEARCHLIGHT HEALTH that she was working along with his parents to get him enrolled there so that he could capitalize on his mechanics potential. Alas, Ravi may have seen the whole scenario as a certificate of failure for him.

One may never know what was his fatal motivation but it can only be hoped that the calls for adequate counseling in schools is heard so that we do not ever again have to sit posthumously wondering “Why did he do it?”, “Why did she do it?”, “Could we have helped?”, or “Why didn’t we spot it before?”