I have always been convinced the re-opening of schools to be merely an ideological issue; now more than even. After fruitless months spent discussing about the employment of one-seater desks with wheels or the right safe distances between students or teachers, which were shortened day after day to stuff them all in “safety” in the classrooms, we have found ourselves in the front line unprotected, unprepared and even without the famous wheeled one-seater desks, which have now been confined to mere urban legend, as we have never seen one of them in flesh and blood.
Of course, the show had to go on, and it did, backed by the propagandistic ministerial cry of war : “schools are safe“. I often wonder, how vital it is to hold important offices nowadays, to be a good story teller rather than displaying skill and training.They are mostly pretenders and liars, who have the nerve to charm that majority of dummies who wish to be lulled by a nice story with a happy end.
Yet, it is hard to keep telling the same fairy tale when the witch, who was believed dead or almost dead is back in the saddle, as after only a couple of weeks from the reopening of schools the figures about Covid-19 transmission started to increase rapidly. So, if the Minister of Education wanted to keep her point, it was crucial to find somebody else to blame – this is rule number one for a good, shrewd politician – so the fault fell on the Minister of Transports. Hence, the story was thus upgraded: “schools are safe, but transports are not. Covid transmission happens on buses and trains because distances are not respected, while we do respect them in schools“.
As a consequence of these remarks, endless tv squabbles followed, but the theme actually sounded more like the chicken and the egg debate. Those who might get infected on buses and trains, then come to school, in fact. Once in, we provide them with masks, which are readily thrown away as soon as they cross the school gate, but even if we invite our students to sanitize their hands and be seated, they are not statues and naturally break the rules as soon as you turn your back or you realize that those at home need to ask a question or have lost their connections. I cannot watch them all. Hence, despite everybody’s good will and efforts, it is impossible to guarantee that the virus is not transmitted in schools, but quite the opposite.
Indeed, I have to say that since our first school day, the feeling of being exposed to the virus has became so palpable, that we have all felt the urgent need to take more precautions than the protocols suggested. Despite all our efforts, pretty soon some of my colleagues started to go missing one after the other, only to discover afterwards that they had been quarantined along with their classes.The net was closing on me, I could feel it. “Only one will remain” I used to say jokingly to a colleague of mine, quoting Highlander, but unfortunately I could not boast to be the last one to survive, as yesterday after a long, brave battle I fell and was quarantined, as one of my students was found positive to his first Covid test. I’ll be back to work in a couple of weeks, ready to be quarantined again as soon as I bump into another positive case or get infected myself.
Since this situation was easily predictable, I cannot help but wonder why we haven’t been able to take the appropriate measures in six months. The school is open, the Minister claims it as her success, but she pretends not to realize that in the classrooms and along the aisles education cannot be found anywhere. Why we haven’t treasured on-line learning experience, especially for high schools and universities, and invested in technology, bandwidth, for instance, rather than disclaiming it entirely, truly I cannot say. The only answer I can give is that keeping the on-line learning option would have meant admitting that the pandemic was not over and the return to normal was not imminent, and god knows what could happen when a country is not told a good fairy tale before going to sleep.