In Touch | No clear plan on schools

Do you feel, that as a parent and a pupil, the education department and, by extension, school managements, have a proper handle on the Covid-19 situation in the schools? Do you have absolute confidence that they have a well-considered plan that takes into consideration all the factors and have policies that safeguard the pupils, teachers and parents at home? Do you feel the measures they have taken in the last two weeks are adequate to address the sudden upsurge of coronavirus cases in their schools? Do you feel those measures have taken into consideration the rights of the pupils versus the need to keep everyone safe?

In the last two weeks there has been an upsurge of Corona cases in the schools in Komani and surrounds and this has led to what I see as a knee-jerk response from the education authorities and schools. I suppose they have been taken by surprise by this outbreak as, for a long time, we have had very few cases and even they did not really involve schoolgoing young people, as it has now. I suppose the general measures like washing your hands and social distancing were thought to be enough to combat the spread of the virus in the school environment.

Remember also, we were told younger people are not infected so easily, especially if they are in a controlled school environment. This was the argument put forward by the ministry when they called for schools to be reopened way back when the first wave hit our shores. However, this week we saw a mixed bag of actions taken by different schools in the Komani area. In some schools learners were turned away on Monday on their arrival at school and many were not notified when they were to return. In one primary school, parents were up in arms when they discovered that their little ones were tested for Covid without their consent or even knowledge, at the very least. Some chose to close the schools for a couple of days initially, but ended up extending it to Monday next week. Others simply sent messages to parents to warn them not to send their children to school if anyone in their households was isolating or awaiting Covid test results. So what happens to those that are not aware that there is actually a Covid case in their household at the time they send their little ones to school?

As you can see there is no co-ordinated response to the outbreak. Instead individual schools seem to be taking independent decisions which I feel is very dangerous and counter- productive. I suspect there is an aversion from the basic education side to closures of schools for any length of time. You can sense this from the very hesitant and diverse actions taken by the schools. There is now talk that the department is thinking of taking away the spring break to compensate for the few days being lost due to these disruptions. If that is not a clear indication that they want to push ahead regardless, I don’t know what is.

Add the nonsensical fear of vaccine by some, then you can see that this pandemic will continue to ravage our society for some time to come. There should have been a clear message on Monday that ALL schools be closed for the week as all these pupils come from the same areas. Then, over the weekend, reassess and then take a decision that binds everyone.