By Theresa Goodwin
While government officials may be touting the success of the vaccine mandate for school children 12 years and older, concerns are still lingering about the harshness of the policy and the likely consequences in that some students were left out in the cold.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told the media last week that out of a population of about 7,200 eligible students, more than 6,200 of them have been vaccinated or have at least taken their first dose of the Pfizer jab, and as a result of this, children, vaccinated or not, will be able to return to school from today.
However, while acknowledging the fact that the mandate has led to an increase in the vaccination numbers, principal and former head of the local teacher’s union, Ashworth Azille, said the mandate caused a major disruption in the teaching and learning process.
He also added that there are other factors which are yet to be seen.
“I think only time will tell whether or not the policy was well thought out, and whether or not it served to achieve the objective. Most parents are keen on ensuring that their children remain in schools and that might have certainly driven up some measure of compliance.
“One cannot help but question to what end, and whether or not we will reap the negative [consequences] for having these young people’s education interrupted in this manner,” Azille said.
Vernest Mack, a former educator, opined that it was not a wise idea to impose a mandate for children who are unable to decide for themselves.
She was supported by entrepreneur and mother of three, Chaniel Imhoff, who found the policy unfair.
“It’s very unfair to put things in place with those types of consequences without proper planning, contingencies etcetera, especially for people who do not have the right to make decisions for themselves,” Imhoff said.
Independent Senator Bakesha Francis-James, who was also a part of Observer Radio’s Big Issues panel, disagreed somewhat with the other contributors saying that, while the policy “was a bit harsh,” it was necessary.
“I don’t think it should have been that stringent, I think it should have been a more relaxed mandate where you say you need to be vaccinated and give the parents some time to make that decision,” Francis-James said.
Meanwhile, Azille stated further that the policy was draconian and went contrary to the Education Act and a UNICEF convention which says that no child should be left behind.