HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsDon’t use schoolchildren as guinea pigs

Don’t use schoolchildren as guinea pigs


WE have said it before, and we will keep saying it until we have knocked sense in someone’s head. For government to insist on reopening schools to in-person classes at a time COVID-19 cases, especially local transmissions, are on the rise is tantamount to playing Russian Roulette with the lives of students, teachers and families.

NewsDay Comment

Everyone knows we have lost a significant chunk of our 2020 school calendar, but this is due to circumstances beyond our control. It’s nobody’s fault.

So, it’s no use for the Cain Mathemas of this world to insist on sticking to the calendar or going by the book while circumstances on the ground don’t allow for that.

Parents, teachers and even legislators have, at different fora, expressed reservations over government’s decision to reopen schools this month-end.

We believe their concerns are valid and ought to be taken on board. Why does our government want to rush things when the environment does not allow?

We certainly don’t want to end up like our neighbour South Africa, which opened schools too quickly and was forced to shut down some due to high infection rates.

In May, two weeks after Israel fully reopened schools, there was a COVID-19 outbreak. There were at least 130 cases at a single school. Students and staff were infected at dozens of schools, causing a rash of renewed closings.

Our authorities need to borrow a leaf from their Kenyan counterparts who have suspended in-person classes to January next year as a safety measure, and invested heavily in distance learning despite the numerous implementation challenges with that method of instruction.

Any action comes with some level of risk, but we should err on the side of caution. It will be irresponsible for the authorities to stick their heads in the sand and reopen schools this month-end in accordance with their plans.

Considering the nature of children, having them put on face masks all day at school while maintaining social distancing is easier said than done.

Naturally, children like to play and often get physical at school, while at the same time a mask can bring some discomfort.

So there is need to seriously think about all these things before schools are re-opened. Understandably, these and many other issues including sanitisation and screening need to be thrashed out first.

We believe a responsible government, and in this case one led by a ‘listening President’ ought not to use schoolchildren as guinea pigs.

We believe we should not reopen schools until health experts say it’s now safe to do so. Life is precious, so is schoolchildren’s.

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