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By Carlena Knight

News that children over the age of two will be required to wear facemasks at schools and daycares is proving controversial with parents.

The policy was revealed in June when recommendations for the reopening of childcare centres were introduced and, although there has been some public discussion about the practicality of the decision, Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda-Sealey-Thomas confirmed on Friday that the authorities would maintain this recommendation.

She did, however, admit that it would pose a challenge.

“It would be a challenge. Children, they touch their faces and it’s something we are not accustomed to, even as adults, so the tendency would be for them to remove it,” Thomas said.

This move has been the cause of great concern to sections of the public.

“Some of us, as adults, find it uncomfortable to keep these masks on, much less for these preschoolers. Every couple seconds they going take them off, probably showing the other kids; they might throw them on the ground too… it’s going to be a struggle for some of them preschool teachers too,” one parent said.

“This is industrial grade nonsense,” another parent stated. “Are they going to pay persons to monitor these children, every second of the day?! That’s how often they’ll be removing them.

“Children should go back to school, when it’s safe so to do, not because they may lose interest in learning if they don’t. If we were at war and mines were planted around schools, would we send them back before we cleared the mines, for fear they would lose interest in learning, or would we after we had cleared the mines? This is ridiculous and dangerous,” they continued.

“It’s the responsibility of parents to ensure their children remain focussed — even if only somewhat — on academics. We cannot rush them back to school, for convenience sake. I’d rather have my child alive and well, rather than rather schooled and sick or dead.

“Thousands of people are coming here weekly from the USA, where the pandemic is out of control and they are not tested. Yet the people rushing our children out of our homes and back to school say nothing about the risk posed, by having thousands of untested Americans running free among us…but dem ‘fraid pickney go lose interest in learning.”

Some even mentioned the poor ventilation in classrooms as another factor why this protocol might not work. And some called for an alternative measure to be implemented.

“There needs to be a plan B; cannot see kids sitting in a hot classroom with masks on their faces for so many hours. Adults can barely do it,” one person said.

The safety of teachers came into question as well, as it was also posited that teachers will have to be more focussed on policing students in following protocols than they would be on teaching.

Some responders have declared that their children will not be returning to school.

Despite concerns, there are a few who believe that this protocol could work.

“Yes, it’s a good idea. Once you train your children they will obey. We have children age one-plus that we see wearing their glasses every day. We still don’t know how this virus will affect our children in the future. Masks, yes; children in France and Belgium are wearing masks,” one person said.

Another pointed out that, “it’s just all about training from home. Once we teach our children the right practices daily and even go through it with them, then they will be fine. They need to be back in school.”

All public schools in Antigua and Barbuda are expected to reopen on September 7, while teachers are expected to report to work on August 31.

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