By Orville Williams
Amid fears that discrimination over Covid-19 vaccines could fester among the nation’s students, parents, guardians and other adults in Antigua and Barbuda are being urged to spread a message of acceptance to their children.
According to reports, at least one fully vaccinated student at a major government school has refused to attend face-to-face classes, fearing that they could be exposed to Covid-19 by fellow students who are unvaccinated.
The likelihood of that happening, however, is relatively low considering that the majority of eligible teachers and students have already been inoculated and those who remain unvaccinated must submit to fortnightly Covid tests.
According to Education Director Clare Browne, adults have a responsibility to discourage that sort of discrimination and should be careful to use appropriate language around children toward that end.
“The way adults speak about some things could perpetuate a particular view. It is just the way we speak to our children that will determine what would happen, so we encourage persons to accept everybody.
“That is something that, when I was a schoolteacher, I have always spoken to my charges about. We encourage charges to see each other just as everybody else … look at each other as students just like yourself. So, vaccinated or unvaccinated, they’re just students,” Browne told Observer.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, those considered to be ‘anti-vaxxers’ have been accused of perpetuating attitudes of discrimination, essentially ‘looking down’ on persons who have been vaccinated, equating their actions to sheep blindly following a shepherd.
As of late, that blame has started to shift somewhat, with the vaccinated now vocalising their displeasure with the unvaccinated.
In one neighbouring Caribbean territory, reports are that a group of employees in a private company refused to work in the same office as colleagues who remain unvaccinated, which is similar to the stance taken by the student here in Antigua.
As the Education Director advises though, it is incumbent on adults – regardless of their views on Covid-19 jabs – to teach the younger ones to be accepting of others; in other words, let the children be children.