School Children From Vulnerable Households Have Been Abandoned

During the Covid pandemic a cohort of school children from families with highly vulnerable members have been staying home from school so as not to put their mothers, fathers and other family members at risk of infection. These children have been punished by the state by refusing them any support for home education. People before Profit TD, Brid Smith, has championed their cause. Here RUTH STOKES, a secondary school teacher who has been working with the PARENTS UNITED.IE campaign, offers a passionate defence of their stand.

What if the Right is right about this and solidarity is wrong? He who shouts loudest should be heard, he who hits hardest should take over. And the rest of us deserve this assessment. 

The children and teenagers who volunteered to co-cocoon with their medically vulnerable family members deserved to be punished. Their shielding of their very-high-risk loved ones should not have been tolerated. They could have continued enjoying time with their friends, before school, at school, after school, out and about.

Instead, they opted to stay in, indefinitely. Nobody forced them to put their lives on hold. Nobody deprived them of their freedom. They refused to risk contracting Covid 19 because they decided their very-high-risk parents’ or siblings’ lives were worth saving. They should have listened to the Government. Now they’re learning – the hard way!

Their solidarity was rewarded with total exclusion from education. No remote teaching or learning, no assignments sent home, no option to submit work for correction, no support whatsoever. What did they expect? That the State would continue to educate them? Hardly! You save a life, you lose your rights! Heroes? Losers! Asking for a little support while trying to teach themselves the whole Leaving Cert syllabus in seven subjects? If they wanted teaching, they should have gone into school!

Yes, going into school would have meant potentially contracting Covid, transmitting the virus to their very-high-risk family members and inadvertently causing their deaths. “Cases in school-age children increased by over 1,000% between schools reopening in August and the end of last year*1. “There were hundreds of outbreaks in schools, with over 1,200 associated cases, in just four months.”*2“Of all age groups, school-age children (5-14) experienced the highest increase in both cases and hospitalisations after schools repened.”*3However, the Government insisted (and even now still insists) that schools are “safe”. 

That is why the Government excluded these children and teenagers from access to education, as it will again this month. “The current government position with regard to children who are not themselves in the Very High Risk category remains unchanged; once their peers return to the premises their eligibility for remote teaching and learning will cease.”*4The Government’s “safe schools” propaganda justifies its targeting of these children and teenagers. “Schools are safe, schools are safe, schools are safe” – we all know the drill. Who were these rebels challenging the national party line? School children. Easy targets! 

So, if the Right is right about this, our heroes are obviously wrong. Bríd Smith, Olive O’Connor, Deirdre Gilhawley, you shouldn’t have bothered defending the defenceless. These children and teenagers are indefensible. Guilty, not only of gross insubordination, but worse – guilty of solidarity and self-sacrifice. 

Although hundreds of thousands of school students have been accessing remote education, and not attending in-school classes, since early January, the transmission of Covid19 and the new variants among these children continues to increase. “Actually the final tally ended up as 15,227 cases of #COVID19 in children in Ireland in January and February this year*5 Since some schools resumed partial in-school teaching at the end of February, 118 schools + 10 pre-schools with verified cases were listed between February 27th and March 14thon “Alerting parents of outbreaks in schools Ireland” Facebook.*6 More to follow. New cases in schools are added each day. All submissions have evidence attached. 

Presuming the Right is right means ignoring not only this evidence but also the renowned epidemiologists *7who highlight the inherent risks in our current classroom conditions. Who needs epidemiologists anyway? The Right knows better! The children and teenagers going into these overcrowded classrooms without adequate ventilation, without CO2 monitors, without real distancing between individuals, without the necessary PPE, without reliable contact-tracing, without any honesty, those children and teenagers are the real heroes. Taking one for the team! Risking contracting Covid 19 or the new variants, risking transmitting Covid 19 or the new variants to their families and friends – it’s what the Government keeps telling them to do. Their patriotic duty. Such blind faith in the “Schools are safe, schools are safe, schools are safe” mantra. The spin will win! When thousands more of these school attendees contract Covid 19 or the new variants in school, they will be told it was not through school transmission. They will believe this lie too. They will be grateful to have had ongoing access to education even if it costs them their health. They will believe every lie. The Government’s expert advisors are nothing if not duplicitous. 

So, if the Right is right about this, the co-cocooning children and teenagers are not worthy of any consideration. Not only should they be denied education access, they should also be silenced. 

And yet, PBP TD Bríd Smith continues to give them a voice. “ARE WE SURE IT’S SAFE? The government have had nearly a year to improve safety, to ensure proper space and ventilation, to employ more teachers. But have they? Not that I can see. Our communities include the children. They must be safe if the wider community is also to be safe. The worry is you can trust Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens on nothing!” *8

References: 

*1. https://www.dropbox.com/s/wvyc6n992fq8nrq/Are%20Irish%20Schools%20Safe%20During%20the%20COVID-19%20Pandemic%20-%20Parents%20Utd%20Ireland%20Report.pdf?dl=0

Are Irish Schools Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Parents Utd Ireland Report.pdf Authored on behalf of Parents United by Olive O’Connor and Deirdre Gilhawley 

*2.https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_JHwL4kEXXBULl7FxE-ds4pq-HCxRGAWlkhBwR6xOuo/edit

Survey on COVID-19 contact tracing in schools and preschools, Rep of Ireland 

Conducted between Feb 12-14th 2021, amongst school community members across the Republic of Ireland, via a short online survey. 2,870 surveys were returned and analysed.

*3.https://www.dropbox.com/s/wvyc6n992fq8nrq/Are%20Irish%20Schools%20Safe%20During%20the%20COVID-19%20Pandemic%20-%20Parents%20Utd%20Ireland%20Report.pdf?dl=0

Are Irish Schools Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Parents Utd Ireland Report.pdf Authored on behalf of Parents United by Olive O’Connor and Deirdre Gilhawley 

*4.E-mail from School Management to parent of two of children – one very-high-risk child whose sibling is co-cocooning in order to protect him. The healthy sibling will have his education access removed again in April.

*5. https://twitter.com/oliveblogs/status/1368621558122635269?s=20

*6.https://www.facebook.com/groups/600905740607906/?ref=group_header

*7.https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00622-X/fulltext

School reopening without robust COVID-19 mitigation risks accelerating the pandemic (Deepti Gurdasani, Nisreen A Alwan, Trisha Greenhalgh, Zoë Hyde, Luke Johnson, Martin McKeeet al.) Published:March 10,2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00622-X

and https://www.isagcovid19.org/*8 https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=138161351495736  Bríd Smith’s Facebook page, 24/02/2021

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