May 13, 2020, 2:13 PM
Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) indeed is a distractors disease that caught the medical and scientific world by surprise. It disrupts human services and all sectors of the society since its emergence from the Chinese city of Wuhan. The disease was also declared by the World Health Organisation as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Thus; wise measures are required to fight against it.
However, it will be utterly unacceptable for the government to use this disease as a scapegoat to dodge away from their primary responsibilities especially in the provision of quality and relevant education for all. The two Ministries of education (Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology) and by extension cabinet, supposedly have the organization coherence and access to expert advice on policy frameworks informed by research. Thus, should come with a strategy to safely return our kids to school or otherwise they would abdicate their responsibilities if they are not already.
It is important to live with the virus and open schools in a covid-19 safe and secure way with medical and scientific approaches like other responsible and forward thinking governments are doing. For example, among many countries at both continental and international levels with higher covid-19 cases and deaths than Gambia, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the latest to open up institutions of learning at the time of writing this article, where students were provided with face masks, disinfectants and with observance of social distancing.
Can’t the Gambia strategies like these countries and open up schools and stop punishing the innocent population with poverty, unemployment, ignorance and more damaging, bury the future of our next generation. It is a known fact that keeping students out of school for this long without any meaningful learning alternation exposes them to other disheartening eventualities which are worse than covid itself.
Reports indicate that Kenya registered about 150,000 teen pregnancies just after three months of lockdown and many thousand learners recruited in the labor force. Nigeria had an increase in sexual and gender based violence with 30% of women and girls aged 15-49 having experienced sexual abuse according to reports. Global Partnership for Education experts warned that million learners may not return to school when schools reopen with girls the most affected. In Gambia, although no research in my humble knowledge is conducted to establish issues of teen pregnancies, gender based violence in these six horrible months of lockdown, but by observation, nobody can deny that fact that we are also registering these unfortunate vices.
Also, reports indicate that vocational and technical institutions of learning in the Gambia will die a natural death if the government doesn't open schools or supports these institutions. Just imagine the number of jobs lost that will result plus the terrible unemployment rate of the country.
Meanwhile, analysts putting on a political lens would argue that government do not want to take the nasty risk to open schools or other sectors. That the community transmission of the virus may increase which will be politically deathly to president Barow considering the closeness of the 2021 most anticipating national election. But what about the tourism industry plan opening in October; changes in the quarantine protocols for travers to the Gambia and even strangely the transportation sectors where drivers are allowed to carry passengers to the capacity of their vehicles with utterly no social distancing and improper wearing of the face masks? . In effect, these eased restrictions pose higher risk of the spread of the virus than any other thing. So let the government think twice.
Finally, the future of this country lies on the educational sector as the educationists will put it “no development will be sustainable if it not backed by education”
Government either open schools in a covid-19 safe and secure way or add more weight to the already weak and shaky educational system and riskily bury our education and our future.