Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley. (FP)

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley today addressed the issue of school closures in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

She highlighted a number of challenges that would come with the closure of schools, as she sought to explain why Government had not yet made that decision. They included that:

  • The majority of children would normally be left with grandparents, or older people, and we would be putting those older people at risk. 

  • Many of the children depend on school meals both at the primary and secondary schools.

  • I’ve asked the Minister of Education when she meets with teachers tomorrow, if there are people in the system who genuinely have a chronic non-communicable disease and are over 60 years, to come and talk to us, and we will make accommodation and the rest of us who are in the system would have to help lift weight.

  • Our duty is to make sure that the schools are kept clean.

  • Our duty is to make sure that those who are in the vulnerable population are insulated.  Thus far, children and young people are not generally in that population, but the problem is that children may not want to wash their hands regularly. 

  • We need to understand that something that is appropriate for one country may not necessarily be appropriate for our own country, and that what we are doing is following the science and the data.

Czar, Richard Carter, also weighed in on the discussion and shared his experience during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

  • We saw the fall and the consequences of this in Sierra Leone, and we’ve seen it in other places where schools had mass school closures.

  • The childcare responsibility; the responsibility for instruction; the responsibility for the integrity of social relations; the strain that will be put on parents who are now concerned that their children are at home, and therefore their commitment to work waivers.

A decision will be made, if we reach stage two, in respect of institutions such as schools, but we have to weigh very carefully the consequences of the dislocation that will happen if we go to a premature closure of schools because children are then exposed to a range of other things that we would ordinarily not want them exposed to.

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