THE EDITOR: Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.
This quotation from Albert Einstein, sealed by the covid19 pandemic, sums up my thoughts as a physician, wife, mother and citizen.
We are the last, the very last country in the world not to have reopened schools for all our children. Uganda recently received international praise for being able to finally give its children their fundamental right to education, to a future not trapped behind a computer screen but one screaming with excitement and opportunity for the days ahead.
It may not be without challenges, but we cannot get to where we want to in life without taking chances.
It is abundantly clear that online education is failing schoolchildren. My personal research has shown that many teachers and school staff agreed that schools being closed to most students throughout lockdown has harmed young people's mental health.
The statistics show this pandemic has magnified inequities.
Students who didn't feel like part of a school community have become even more disengaged during distance learning; students who were less experienced with digital platforms have had difficulty keeping up with remote learning, and this has led to an increase in school dropouts, teenage pregnancy, drug and substance abuse, mental health problems and suicide among our youth.
Schools and colleges provide stability, routine and consistency, protective factors for young people's mental health and notably a connection to trusted adults such as teachers and pastoral support.
I plead with my fellow Trinbagonians to be brave, not live in fear, trust what other nations are doing successfully, and reopen schools safely.
Our children deserve a right to education: one they enjoy, one that includes their friends and the familiar faces of their home away from home.
I know I take a risk each day I walk into my clinic, but I am guided by the promise I made the day I graduated as a doctor – to help those in need. My team works hard at maintaining safety protocols so that over the last two years, after more than 13,000 people have walked through our doors, I'm confident in saying no one has contracted covid19 from my office.
The same theory goes for the education of children. They deserve the right to learn. Teaching, like medicine, is a calling and in no way do I cry down the efforts of teachers in the last two years. I realise how difficult it is to engage children on a screen, especially after more than 600 days!
The government must act before we lose a generation to failed education and, in doing so, compromise Trinidad and Tobago's future.
Let's get our children back where they belong: in school. Whether it's at desks in their classrooms, under tents in the playgrounds, or sitting under mango trees, like in the old-time days!
DR TONYA ABRAHAM-ALI