With only a few weeks left in the 2019/2020 academic year, Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley has said Cabinet is currently discussing the prospect of summer schools/camps as a supplement for students who have fallen behind because of COVID-19.
His statement comes amid growing concerns about the state of early childhood education since the pandemic that caused all physical school campuses to close and shift to online classes.
“We have been having discussions about summer schools, reopening schools, and other things,” said Dr Wheatley in effort to reassure parents on Thursday, June 18. “Even though you are not privy to these discussions, they are taking place.”
‘Online schooling not working for my child’
The minister was responding specifically to a local mother who posted on social media that online schooling has not been working for her child.
In her post, she said she supported the implementation of a summer school programme this year. The mother, who noted she is overwhelmed with concern, further sought the opinion of other parents.
“I’m still struggling to understand any of this. I am a full-time working mother. My five-year-old child has been at home since mid-march. Online schooling didn’t work for my child. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be working for many children. Is it working for your child? Please tell me,” she said.
She further questioned government’s decision to reopen the territory and permit certain activities but not reopen schools.
“Schools are struggling to open yet you can take your child to a birthday party with 50 other kids. Does that make sense? I can go and get my hair done, get a massage, and go to a bar. But, meanwhile, my child is still stuck at home.”
Strong opposition to reopen school
The parent further said that she believes there is a strong opposition towards the reopening schools; noting that her child’s school was reopened sometime last week but closed 24-hours later.
And while stating that she understands the gravity of COVID-19, she said schools remaining closed at this junctiure is negatively impacting children across the territory who may be suffering in silence.
“We have no cases [of COVID-19] here and haven’t had any cases for weeks. I feel like children are being punished while we are COVID-free. Can’t we just give our children the space to enjoy summer? How long is this going to go on for?” she questioned.
“Are we waiting for another case of COVID? While our borders remained closed – with the exception of a few Belongers coming back in who are in strict quarantine – can we not just let our kids run free?” she further asked.
She then called for summer schools to open but without some of the coronavirus-related measures such as having to wear a mask. She said it is impractical and for children to wear masks all day, especially considering the high summer temperatures.
Other parents in agreement with concerns
Her post generated more than 70 reactions and multiple comments, including a few from the education minister who said the positions she articulated “are being presented” to Cabinet.
“You would appreciate there are also perspectives to the contrary,” Dr Wheatley underscored.
However, several other social media users who responded to the post indicated that they agreed with the parent.