School reopening stalemate: Are students and teachers pawns to a bigger agenda?

The prolonged coronavirus lockdowns have left many countries grappling with school reopening issues as school authorities face an agonizing dilemma between public health considerations and adverse effects of school closures on learning.

School reopening is one of the most demanding and sensitive decisions on most political and health officials’ list today. Is it safe to resume school operations, or is there a risk of reigniting the virus spread? Have remote learning methods been successful at keeping students engaged, or will schools have to make up for all the lost time?

The school reopening issues are complex, and the decisions are nowhere close to being straightforward and simple. School closures have affected over 1.57 billion children globally; that’s over 90 percent of the student population. One wrong move can put billions of lives at risk again.

Yes, the stakes are quite high. But in the UK, the guidelines offered to teachers and school authorities for school reopening are beyond one’s grasp. Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), comments on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s press conference about the broader resumption of schools and colleges,

I worry that this mess isn’t an accident, but the product of a hawkish desire by some within government to make big, bold, definitive statements about reopening Britain for business, while dismissing what they may regard as mere detail.

Isn’t fear about not knowing the nitty-gritty details, and this could easily be addressed by providing some clarity with a system in place?

Britain’s school reopening: A shoddy attempt at returning to normal

Barton argues that the inconsistency and the sheer lack of clarity in the school reopening guidelines possibly have a hidden political agenda that leaves teachers and school principals in the lurch.

There are far too many exceptions and contradictions to the framework offered, making it impossible for school leaders to manage school reopening on their own. The only thing that has been made clear as crystal so far is that from June 1 onwards, every child will have a full-time place in the school. How will that come about? That’s up to the school to decide.

The primary issue is managing the sheer complexity of social distancing exercise. Do all schools have the space to accommodate their students while adhering to the safe distance protocol? In most cases, the answer is no.

And while that may seem like a significant enough issue already, many schools, despite announcing school reopening dates, have no whereabouts of their staff as many are either battling the disease in the hospital, belong to a vulnerable category or are quarantining at home.

Defying rotas: Is it part of a well-thought-out plan?

The new guidance also states that school reopening must not be conducted based on rotas, a concept that over 80 percent of school leaders were preparing to use for customized, context-driven planning in the partial resumption of schools. Defying rotas, per Barton, throws everything off balance.

With all this ambiguity surrounding school reopening, are teachers and school officials equipped to handle this delicate issue? The Government’s lack of clarity about its plans and its “wait and see” attitude leave teachers and education stakeholders in the dark and at considerable risk.

There was speculation by a concerned citizen that the British Government had set its eyes on Brexit at the start of the year; however, little did they know that an issue as serious as coronavirus pandemic would get in the way. With lockdowns essentially bringing the UK economy to a halt, it has become increasingly difficult for the Government to sell the idea of Brexit, leaving many people questioning its very existence.

UK’s education system is in dire need of transparency

What’s more frustrating is that while the Government has access to a vast and most recent scientific, medical and public health advice, all schools and colleges have are the inadequate school reopening parameters set forth by someone within the Government who, in a slipshod attempt to reopen Britain for business, is losing sight of the very basic. Schools and colleges do not have access to the kind of information the Government has.

Transparency seems to be the main solution to tone down all fears and accusations. And blockchain technology, given its decentralized nature, can rescue us all from manipulation.

There is no robust guidance available on how to mitigate risks of another wave of infection while moving to a new normal. There are no solutions to tackling the learning crisis and providing a more inclusive and sustainable learning model. And perhaps, more importantly, no information on ways to manage school reopening realistically, keeping in mind the budgetary crisis.

Blockchain: Empowering people with transparency and trust

With the blockchain, all these essential data can be accessed and given due measure to predict, contradict, and come to a workable and safe solution, without manipulation.

COVID-19 has magnified disparities in the global education system, and the UK’s school reopening problem is only one of the many examples of education inequality. So, everyone should take heed of this call of the hour, and as English Forward News co-founder, Mitch Rankin states in one his articles,

“We need a radical technology to re-think, and I believe we need to engage with blockchain experts as part of the planning framework and education roadmap for the future.”