THE EDITOR: Opinions have been coming fast and furious, through both conventional and social media, on the need to reopen all schools and allow young people to resume their full education within the new "normal."
Those making this call, including doctors and academics, often cite international news reports and statistics to hammer home their points on the positives of the full reopening of physical classes.
Students, they argue, need to have some form of social interaction as part of their learning experience rather than sit at a computer screen for hours on end.
Parents, they continue, would be relieved at palming off their progeny to the regular Monday-Friday foster parents, aka the teachers.
And teachers themselves would no longer have to prepare special teaching modules designed for online classes.
In a perfect world, their arguments make good sense.
But they forget one critical issue, one fly in the proverbial ointment which renders all of their arguments moot – there is no such thing as a "perfect world," especially here in Trinidad and Tobago.
These return-to-classroom proponents appear to have forgotten two Trini-centric truths.
1) The parallel health system is still tottering on the edge of full-blown crisis because of the very high numbers of new infections. There are hardly any beds available and doctors and nurses are past the point of exhaustion.
2) Omicron is rapidly becoming the variant of choice in TT and I say "choice," because after two years of this pandemic, Trinis by and large are nowhere near the required level of maturity to understand that covid19 is primarily spread by human behaviour or, better put, misbehaviour.
These two "home truths" alone would be enough for any realistic, sober and caring minister of education, chief education officer and chief medical officer to understand that the Trini culture, coupled with the high daily infection rates, would make a full reopening of schools a recipe for disaster and death.
It is disingenuous for those pushing for a full reopening to use statistics and information from first-world countries as the basis for their arguments. TT is not a first- or even second-world country. You can't use the ingredients for bread to justify the need to bake a cake!
As a realistic Trini who is accustomed to seeing daily just how ill-disciplined and immature my fellow Trinbagonians are, I say a big "hell, no," to the idea of fully reopening our schools sector, especially if one of the arguments is that children need to socialise. Let them do that at the beach or mall under parental supervision.
What I would recommend is the continuation of a blended learning experience with both online classes for the majority and physical classes for those who need to be in school be it for labs or to work on SBAs, etc. I would also advocate for Governmental action to make better internet available to households where online classes take place by way of subsidies to internet companies, and cheaper digital equipment to allow for all or most students being able to study at home.
The core issue is, we need to adjust our lives in a manner as to make it very hard for this virus to spread and mutate. A school environment where there is minimal supervision, ill discipline and a mixing of both vaccinated and unvaccinated people will surely facilitate a superspreader event. Our children need to be protected, plain and simple.