In six weeks time, our students and pupils are due to resume face-to-face classes to begin the new school year. Theirs has been a harrowing experience since the outbreak of the COVID -19 pandemic, particularly since last year. In spite of heroic efforts on the part of some dedicated teachers, the Ministry of Education and concerned parents, there continues to be not only disruption, but signs of some deterioration in the quality of service that our education system can offer in the circumstances.
In the absence of established research, it is difficult to either quantify or qualify the effects of the pandemic on our educational system or on our thousands of students and pupils, but it must be considerable. Valiant though the efforts at online education have been, they have not been an adequate substitute for the face-to-face education on which our youngsters have been reared.
But the effects go far beyond formal education and the classroom. The COVID pandemic has cast its ugly shadow on such critical areas as recreation, sport and now, when our youth are supposed to be taking advantage of vacation opportunities for learning and recreation, they are not only constrained, but adults do not seem as concerned by their inactivity and consequent frustration. Even ‘beach limes’ have to keep in line with health protocols!
Yet in spite of all this, the society as a whole, and the majority of parents in particular do not seem to be taking the plight of our children as seriously as we ought to be doing. Many are the complaints from adults about their own inconveniences in the current situation. The plight of our children does not always occupy centre page.
Each week as we grapple with the myriad problems originating from the pandemic, the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere and the hurricane season, the complaints about the inconveniences to our young people and their loss of both educational and recreational activities never seem to get enough attention. We are facing a huge gap in opportunities for an entire generation with huge implications for our future.
Are we to just leave our young people to twiddle thumbs or to get themselves engaged in activities far from socially rewarding? Formal education is very important, but so too is recreation and sport as means of developing our young generation. Is it to be left entirely up to the Ministries of Education and Sport, themselves severely challenged in overcoming the hurdles in their way?
What is the role of the various national sporting bodies, and the many community and social organisations in our country? How could they be assisted to play a meaningful role in saving not just a generation but in the regeneration of our society?
It is significant that the latest variant of the coronavirus, the delta variety, is proving to be very damaging to the health of young people in particular and is spreading rapidly. Idle hands and minds provide fertile grounds for such destruction. Our young people must be given priority and urgent measures taken to address their needs.