“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” – Matthew 19:14
When planning for our children’s development it is difficult to find words that embrace our feelings more effectively than those of worldwide hit “Greatest love of all”. “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside, Give them a sense of pride to make it easier, Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.”
Our children’s education may evolve from the Montessori system. Then home schooling is an option where the child receives parent-directed education at home.
In the primary, secondary and tertiary educational systems, face-to-face education is the norm. In an emergency, this may be supplemented by virtual schooling where education delivery is expedited through online methods.
Enter COVID-19 in March 2020. There was no available vaccine therefore public health protocols demanded that economies be locked down to prevent the spread of the disease and loss of life. This also resulted in the loss of livelihoods. Schools were closed and countries around the world were forced to resort to virtual education.
The majority of our children attend face-to-face classes at all levels of education. They have exams to channel their future progress. The substitute is virtual learning. Working parents have to supervise their childrens’ virtual classes, natural socialization takes a hit, job profiles change, training for the workforce demands has to be adjusted – disaster looms.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned since last year of the dire consequence of school closures which will be felt for generations. And according to UNICEF, school closures should be considered as the absolute last resort in pandemic measures. It will disproportionately affect poorer and socially disadvantaged children and cause huge economic losses for individual nations in the years to come.
Parents in Barbados were totally devastated as their children lag behind in their education and social development. It is terrifying for parents of those children just starting to attend school or going to the next level. A mum shared this comment with a friend: “My teenage daughter is in a major depression as she doesn’t know anyone and does not see anyone anymore. I am very worried.” If this continues much longer, this might lead to a lost generation of Barbadian children.
It is not surprising that a parent, who brought his family from Europe to Barbados on the Barbados Welcome Stamp programme, shared that many parents are at their wits end: “I hope we do not have to cut our stay short because of the continuing school closures in Barbados.”
The unavailability of vaccines in the required quantity and anti-vaxxers (largely influenced by a variety of conspiracy theories) retarded the natural recovery process. Policy makers extended virtual school for two years to avoid community spread.
It is welcome news that the recently appointed Minister of Education has given the reassurance that her ministry is working earnestly towards the resumption of face-to-face classes by Monday, February 21, 2022.
Let us hope that it is not too late to avert the disaster of a lost generation. And above all, if you haven’t, please get yourself and your family vaccinated!
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(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is a Change-Engine Consultant. His email address is email@example.com. His columns may be found at www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com)