I would like to raise awareness about a situation which, unfortunately, many seem to be taking in their stride.  It pains me to see how people all over the world have come to accept injustice passively and it pains me to see how many people seem inclined to bow their head to authorities without questioning them.

The world is experiencing a tragedy.  One would expect a civilized society to unite and face such a dangerous challenge together.  Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case and an approach of the might is right is being adopted whilst brushing to the side the needs of the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.

Vulnerable families had to make very difficult choices, one of which, would be to decide between putting a family member’s life at risk (which could be a young life too) and educating the younger members of their family, the future of the country, the future of the world.

As many are aware, the authorities issued guidelines for the re-opening of schools very close to the actual opening date of schools. Certain schools changed their modus operandi several times due to the regulations and most have informed parents whose children were unable to physically attend school that they could offer them no support at the very last minute.  A child’s education may be their only hope for a decent future, in the case of a vulnerable child, this is probably even more so the case.

Parents in this situation were left with no choice but to choose between health, even life, and education.  Those who have chosen education live in fear that they might be the cause of a dear family member’s death and those who have put health first live in constant uncertainty with regards to their children’s education.

Educational institutions have shied away from standing up to this approach.  Most are simply saying that they are obeying the authorities’ directives. Obeying the authorities. Now that’s a blow.

Those whose responsibility it is to provide our children with education have not been creative enough to find a solution not to leave anyone behind. The people who are responsible for our children’s education, the ones who are meant to be our children’s role models, those who are supposed to instil good values in the future of our society, those who are meant to be giving a good example to our children and those who are supposed to be influencing our children to become strong persons with strongly-held opinions as opposed to being “yes men”, are bowing their heads to the authorities and participating in the act of casting aside the most vulnerable persons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are educational institutions not aware that all students have a right for a safe environment, their health and their right to an education? Or are they simply looking the other way?  Are educational institutions condoning the fact that the vulnerable can be cast aside and forgotten as and when it suits them to do so? This is shameful.

Parents in this position are being made to pay substantial amounts of money for online private lessons in an effort to make up for what is not being offered by schools at a time of great financial uncertainty and when jobs are being lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some teachers are making a little fortune by giving online private lessons and yet parents are so grateful towards them because this seems to be the only solution to their children’s problem.

I must say that some teachers have really stood out in this situation. Kudos to all the lovely teachers who are giving their time to educate, help and support families in these situations.  One must, however, also note that some of these teachers feel that they are also being put in an uncomfortable position by some of their less giving and less understanding colleagues and by the unions who are meant to be representing them.

Examination boards have also taken a back seat and are waiting to see what happens during the year to decide how exam syllabi from 2022 onwards will be affected.  This obviously adds to the pressure these families are facing.  Whilst students who are attending schools will be continuing with their education with regards to practicals, lab experiments, and so on, the vulnerable have, once again, been brushed aside.

Post-secondary schools have planned a mix of online lessons, in school practicals, school tutorials and contact hours without giving the students enough time to go home to follow online lessons in a safe environment.  Some have given an option to students to apply for shielding, yet, students who have been given shielding status are merely being given an exemption from attending the practicals without any concrete way of learning what is being taught in the school labs.

In the meantime, even though the authorities are saying that there is no actual spread of COVID-19 in schools yet, we are all hearing of cases of infected students and educators who have actually been to school.  Many heads of schools are actually shying away from facing parents who are in this situation as they do not have a solution to this problem.

Many seem to believe that parents in this situation need not worry too much as sooner or later schools will close for all and all students will be in the same boat, but does this justify the situation these families have been subjected to?

I must say, students who are in quarantine are also facing this situation, albeit for a short period of time as are students who are COVID-19 positive.

I cannot but wonder how, all workers and decision-makers in various sectors have found a way to serve their customers and to keep their customers happy, yet, our educators, our educational institutions, our leaders and our members of parliament have failed to find a way to make this work for vulnerable families. Is this the result of an educational system which is lacking in creativity and flexibility? Or is it a passive acceptance of injustice?  Do we really think it is right to make parents choose between health and education?

Today, we are brushing aside the educational needs of vulnerable families. I question whether tomorrow we will be brushing aside the medical needs of the vulnerable: will we say we cannot “waste” our medical resources on them?  Will we also give priority to the healthy in this case?  Have we not, as a society, learnt from past mistakes where looking away cost people their lives?

I shudder to think what our society is turning into.  Are we so politically blinded that we can’t use our own brains to think and come to our own conclusions? Can we not see right from wrong? Will we not stand up for what is right?

I hope that, by writing this, I have done my little bit to raise awareness for this cause and also encourage people to stand up for what is right and not look the other way or wait for someone else to speak up.