COVID-19's assault on education, entertainment

COVID-19's assault on education, entertainment

Be responsible or suffer consequences

Natalie Campbell- Rodriques

Thursday, February 11, 2021

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COVID-19 has affected Jamaica and her citizens, as it has other countries and their citizens across the globe. Here, at home, the tourism, sports, entertainment, and education sectors can be determined as being most affected. Within the last few weeks there have been an increased number of calls for the sports and entertainment sectors to be reopened, while the last few days has seen a call for schools to pause face-to-face learning. All the calls are worth hearing, but risk assessments are important in making the final decision for each sector.

Athletes use local sporting events to make a living and to prepare for international events through which they make most of their earnings. What's even more is the fact that sports enthusiasts are suffering from withdrawal. Those among us who make a living from one of the country's biggest earners, entertainment, are without a pay cheque for almost a year. In a country where saving for a rainy day is more spoken about than acted upon, one year without actively earning is more than difficult. So, the calls for reopening this sector can be understood and should not simply be shunned. Instead, we should listen to them and engage in discussions to find a way forward.

Entertainment Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange seems to be on that track with many of the industry's players, but the rest of us need to also put forward actionable ideas to help our countrymen financially survive during this pandemic.

The education sector is in a precarious position. Teachers and students, as well as entire families, are at risk with face-to-face learning, but we must learn to live with COVID-19 as it will be with us for a while longer. There may come a time when we need to pause, but for how long, and how often do we carry out these pauses?

I support the call for teachers to be considered front-line workers, and as such be given priority with vaccines because if we are to keep education on the front burner, our education warriors need to be protected.

Even with significant increases in the number of students with electronic devices, many students in Jamaica will fall behind if not attending physical school. While we are an island, we exist in a globalised world, and as such should never be allowed to fall behind in being able to compete academically and, ultimately, professionally on the world stage.

What percentage of homes have reliable Internet access? What percentage of parents can assist, especially high school students, at home? What percentage of parents have either the flexibility or inclination to monitor learning at home? What has been the effect on the mental health of parents, especially mothers, who are juggling work-from-home and the job of teacher's aide at the same time? How many of our youth have mentally, and even physically, abandoned the idea of school since the start of the pandemic?

Pausing face-to-face learning needs to be considered only as a last resort if things get truly dire. It is a balancing act and the members of the Cabinet of Jamaica are tasked with being acrobats.

Each Jamaican has a role to play. We each need to follow the protocols and ensure those around us are doing the same. COVID-19 fatigue is real; it has set in and it is making some of us relax instead of remaining vigilant. The ability to obey rules in a largely unsupervised manner is easier for shorter periods of time; this is a simple reality of human behaviour. However, it is on us as individuals to take control of ourselves and our families during this time. Gently and kindly ask someone in the store with you to pull their mask over their nose. Ask the manager in the supermarket to remind cashiers and other workers to wear their masks properly.

Should a cadre of National Youth Service workers be trained and deployed to help monitor gatherings, especially on weekends? Who will be tasked with spot-checking hotels and restaurants on Friday and Saturday evenings? We know illegal gatherings are being held, could helicopters be used to patrol our skies for these activities, especially in hot spots?

If, as a people, we are not willing or able to monitor our own behaviours, we will suffer consequences; as the State cannot take all responsibility. Let us play our part and protect each other.

Natalie Campbell-Rodriques is a senator and development consultant with a focus on political inclusion, governance, gender, and Diaspora affairs. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or ncampbellrodriq@gmail.com.


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