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By any measure, the reopening of schools here in Antigua and Barbuda has gone quite smoothly, never mind the nattering nabobs of negativity and the prophets of doom and gloom. And of course, notwithstanding the numerous and varied factors that could have caused major disruptions. Think Murphy’s Law, the adage that holds that “Whatsoever can go wrong, will go wrong.”

Fortunately for us, the sometimes lack of foresight and visionary leadership on the part of the head honchos in the Ministry of Education, and the tendency to be last-minute in the implementation of the back-to-school protocols and policies, did not prove to be insurmountable problems. Only a handful of schools had to delay their openings. For example, The Five Islands and Golden Grove Primary Schools had to push back theirs, as did the Sir McChesney George Secondary School in Barbuda. And not forgetting the St Mary’s Secondary School. Those were case studies in the seven p’s – the lack of prior proper planning presenting piss poor performance.

Nevertheless, we can all exhale, because the 2020/2021 school year is off to a reasonably good start. Kudos to the education officials, the teachers, the students, and the parents and guardians. Special applause is also due to the school bus system for putting a good plan in place to keep our children safe while transporting them to and from school. Everything seems to be working, and the widespread outbreaks and illnesses that so many feared could result, have not materialised. This writer visited a number of schools (Ottos Comprehensive School, the Wesleyan Juniour Academy and the Antigua State College in the week of September 7, and noticed that temperature checks, social distancing protocols and mask-wearing were being enforced according to health official guidelines. And the students were cooperating fully, perhaps elated that they were back to being with their classmates and the joyful business of face-to-face learning.

Remember, it was a tough call on the educators and parents, to wit, do they continue virtual instruction for the foreseeable future, or do they reopen as per usual in September with face-to-face tutelage, albeit with a blended approach. The Covid-19 numbers in Antigua and Barbuda suggested that they could proceed gingerly with the reopening of the school plants. Mercifully, we have not had to suffer through the open-then-close experience of some places like Israel, New Zealand, Indiana, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, where some schools opened and then closed, or Jamaica, where school openings were put back.

 Meanwhile, according to WIRED, a print and online publication, in a piece entitled, SOME COUNTRIES REOPENED SCHOOLS. WHAT DID THEY LEARN ABOUT KIDS AND COVID?”

“As school officials try to figure out whether to open classrooms this fall, the science they need to make these tough choices is still evolving. A few things are clear: That most kids don’t become as seriously ill from Covid-19 as adults, and have much lower fatality rates. That’s according to data from the US and China published by the Centres for Disease Control. But the question of how likely children are to spread it to teachers, staff and other students still hasn’t been settled. One large new study from South Korea found children under the age of 10 appear to not transmit the virus very well. While it’s not exactly clear why, the paediatric infectious disease experts contacted by WIRED say that it’s perhaps because young children expel less air that contains the virus and are shorter, so any potential respiratory droplets are less likely to reach adults. A study published in April by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests that younger kids haven’t developed the molecular keys that the virus exploits to enter the body and wreak havoc on the respiratory system, microscopic structures known as ACE2 receptors. But older students are more like adults in their ability to transmit the virus, according to the South Korea study.” Hmmm!

Again, we wish to congratulate the the Ministry of Education, the school administrators, the school transportation officials, the Ministry of Health folks, the school support staff, the parents and students for working together to make the first two weeks of this school year the success that it has been so far. We certainly wish them all the very best in the days and weeks and months ahead.

Of course, we trust that Teacher Mildred, she of DE LIZARD fame, will not give occasion for the rambunctious children to ask, “Whey de lizard, Teacher Mildred?” Let there be no speculation on their part as to the whereabouts of said lizard. Moreover, may our children pay heed to Teacher Maxwell’s warning for them to “Have control, or de devil goin’ take dey soul!” [Sparrow, SEX EDUCATION]. And please, in the name of all that is good, leave Miss Martin alone! That little playground rhyme about the school bell ringing, and Miss Martin’s er . . ., how can we put this delicately, er, . . . ’small clothes’ dropping, is inappropriate.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive school year!

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