By The Education Revolutionist

No doubt, every stakeholder in education in this country is wondering whether the reopening of school should go ahead or should be postponed, given the continuing revelations of new COVID-19 cases among citizens.

We all remember that the last school term ended one week earlier than scheduled after a rather one-sided debate between educational institutions and the leader whom the parents of many students had voted for five years ago. If you had been able to follow the live stream of that culminating “emergency meeting” (held a whole five days after that late night press conference declaring the first case of COVID-19 in SVG), you would be aware that the country’s leader was not in favour of closing schools early at all, nor was he agreeable to send the necessary sanitising liquids to the schools. In fact, it was rather sarcastically implied that to do so would give teachers the opportunity to take such liquids to their homes. In other words, the teachers would steal them.

Is this the attitude and level of respect which educators and classroom professionals deserve from the head of their country, who is, in many cases, their employer?

It has been made clear by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other affiliated bodies that the chief tool to be used as a self defence strategy against contracting COVID-19 is sufficient water to wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Of course, sanitisers or other suitably qualified liquids may be substituted in lieu of soap. Given the ominous implications that the presence of COVID-19 is manifesting to us, we cannot as a Vincentian people just accept an official announcement that school is to be reopened on the usual date and live as though it is life as usual.

Parents, do you know if and how your children have been getting their hands washed during the last school term? Are you aware that your child’s school might be one where some bathrooms or pipes may not be working? Do you care that the limited soap or cleaning liquids that might have been at your child’s school was likely bought with the personal money of teachers or the school’s principal? Parents and guardians, do you care, that in the new era of COVID-19, your child’s school furniture and other surfaces with which they must interact, may not be cleaned or sanitise on a regular basis, simply because the teachers and school administration cannot afford to keep spending their own pocket money to keep the school plant healthy enough for your irreplaceable children?

This is a call to all parents and guardians. Just as the Ministry of Education listens to you when you make complaints about something you found upsetting at your child’s school, so, now too, they must listen to you as you enquire of them about the provision of water and disinfecting products for your child’s school on a daily basis. If adults find it hard to keep their hands from their faces, how much harder do you think it will be for young, energetic children to avoid touching their faces during the school day?

During this upcoming week, all responsible PTA executives should be talking with the education officials to secure proactive actions that will result in cleaning supplies being made available on the compound of every pre-school, every primary school, and every tertiary level learning institution. Already, all citizens in SVG are finding out the hard way that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Years ago, our health officials here in St. Vincent would caution against accepting the number of confirmed HIV/AIDS cases. They would say, time and time again, that for every one person who is known to have tested positive for HIV/AIDS there were at least 10 other unknown cases walking around in the country.

The same must be held true as regards COVID-19. For a long time, we had only one confirmed case. Then we were told that that person no longer had the virus. Then immediately the country was informed via a prepared statement that the SVG was indeed coronavirus free. Then we were told of a second confirmed case, detected under very scary situations befitting a Hollywood horror movie. Now, we have been informed of a third confirmed case.

(Editor’s note: Four additional cases were confirmed since this article was submitted, taking the total to seven.)

Parents and guardians, teachers, school attendants, van drivers, and all who must interact with school children, are you really going to accept that it is entirely safe to send back the nations children (SVG’s future) to school in this uncertain and potentially life-threatening environment? The world continues to hear of instances where young people, including healthy children, are getting sick with COVID-19. Some of these previously healthy individuals have even died. It was scientifically shown in Kenya that one infected person caused thousands of innocent citizens to become infected.

Will Vincentian citizens allow the same to be said of St. Vincent and the Grenadines?

Another important factor to consider in all of this is the application of social distancing in our classrooms. Van drivers are being asked to carry fewer passengers. Churches are being asked to house only an amount that facilitate the sitting of persons three feet apart in the congregation. The million dollar question is: How many of our classrooms (and in some cases staffrooms) can accommodate students and teachers sitting at least three feet from each other?

There needs to be a definitive assurance, seen and reported in our media, that if schools are to reopen, a sufficient supply of water and cleaning agents are present on each school compound. This is not the time for mere expedient political strategizing. This is a time to recognize and understand that COVID-19 is a world killer.

This is a matter of life and death for the nation’s children and educators.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

7 replies on “On the reopening of schools…”

  1. Esther Duff says:

    If the people who are in leadership positions continue to be Irresponsible with citizens live, then it is left for each person to begin to make sure that they are practicing social distancing themselves. The world watch and listen to the US president announced that they had 15 cases that would soon go to 0. Today they have close to 300,000 My question to the PM is, how long would it take for the virus to spread throughout SVG
    Mr. Prime Minister instead of reopening schools should Be issuing a mandatory stay at home order. The country cannot afford this thing to get out of control it takes one infected person in a village to spread this virus to the entire village, my I remind you that people in the villages lives very close to each other.

  2. Am sorry but l will not be sending my chil to school until these very important issues are addressed as a matter of fact until this COVID 19 thing is under control

  3. Jolly Green says:

    All the schools are infected with rats which carry the Leptospirosis. Rats each time they walk, even if its only a few inches or a few feet, urinate. Their urine more often than not in SVG carries the Leptospirosis bacteria. They walk across your children’s desks at night when everything is quiet.

    Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.

    Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.

    There is probably more chances at school of your children getting infected by diseases that rats carry than from COVIN – 19.

    Your children are at greater risk of catching COVIN from travelling in dollar vans, or from other children who have got relatives visiting from abroad.

    Whilst the children are on holiday keep them in the yard, away from others, now is a very important time and your child is treasure.

  4. Anthony Stewart says:

    Since this is a matter of life and death, we cannot wait on others to ensure our own safety. While the authorities may be obligated to provide for our safety, experience has taught us that in these circumstances we must have sure and reliable provision of safety materials and equipment. We know that it is almost impossible to get students to adopt safety practices so that we can be confident that their health will be protected. your article is well written and captures the concerns of teachers very well.

  5. I totally agree. But I also think the schools should remain closed. There is no way the Government can provide enough sanitizers or water for ALL the schools. Controlling the children would be a definite problem.They think it’s fun to tease one another about Corona. We need to help them understand how serious it is. This starts at home.

  6. I am truly sorry that the leadership in SVG doesn’t have a clue in this Corvid 19 world. Because diseases only happen far from their beds. I agree with your analysis. It is truly mind-numbing to observe these individuals running the country in chaos. Our Grenadine Islands are offered for sale on the internet. It may take a National catastrophe with a lot of dead Vincentians before people backing them realize the government is run by a mob of idiots. Every single one of them is bogus. I say this because I just can’t empathize in their case. SVG people are humble and patient but not backward at all. This is a deadly serious matter and we know it. Look now how it is being handled. Rational thinking people. Normally there would be some type of hierarchy with different branches in an organization. But we have a pyramid system where all decision making goes back to one individual. The Police and the Judiciary are lame or useless or underperforming. Teachers and other civil servants are left hanging to dry all the time. Some really outrageous things like the conditions inside public schools. Water shortage in the Grenadines. We all know that this can’t be life as usual. that is not […]ing normal. Real disrespectful. So know we know who they are.

  7. What a horrible situation the Coronavirus has placed the world in! While some parents wish that their children could have been at school when April 14th arrives, they are now faced with having to keep their children at home for an indefinite period of time. Better safe than sorry, so it’s far better the children stay at home and be reasonably healthy than to go to school and possibly contract Covid-19.- a wicked, deadly disease! As clearly indicated in the article, social distancing cannot be practiced at school. When the 12, 000 tablets arrive in St.Vincent, I do hope that they will be effectively sanitized and properly stored before being distributed to the children. The Ministry of Education (MOE) can arrange to have 15 minute lessons displayed on the local TV station, teaching children concepts in the four main subject areas – Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. Education Officers can be involved in teaching these lessons that are in harmony with the OECS Learning Standards. Parents can get their children to watch these Lessons which can be televised at appointed times for different grades. Also, the MOE can establish websites of these Lessons so that parents/students can go to such sites and gain access to the lessons to benefit the students. For example, let’s say that my child has problems doing Long division. I can go to the appropriate site and find a lesson or lessons that deal with long division to help my child acquire the skill to solve long division problems. If the MOE follows through on the above suggestions, they will be supporting what teachers may do online to help their respective students. I wish everyone as much safety as possible during this stressful coronavirus period.

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