“The monkey is trapped not by anything physical but by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well has become lethal”
Writing on the topic, “Thoughts on yesterday’s men” last Friday, Dan Agbese, one of the grandmasters, wrote, “These days when I feel overwhelmed by the mediocrity of the present, I mentally trudge down the path of the profundity of the forgotten past. I do so to make some sense of the present and convince myself that there is a universal agreement that progress for nations and individuals means moving forward. It is a healthy exercise, I assure you.”
My topic incidentally is centred on tomorrow’s children, and indeed my conversation is about them. From all the drama of the last few weeks, we have practically been entertained crudely and very little tangible conversations have been held with regard to the future of our children.
So this is it, universal prescriptions or mandates for in-school learning are misguided and unrealistic. Sadly, there is no risk-free decision about school reopening: Decision-makers must balance the risks of children contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 with counteracting risks of children falling academically behind and being deprived of social relationships from in-school learning.
In saner climes, decisions as to whether students should return to school in person are being tailored to fit each specific community, school district, and even grade within school. Some have research to show that we can open schools for children in kindergarten through fifth grade with well-funded safety measures in place.
In Nigeria, deadly terrorists tamely called bandits kill soldiers, and no one is really saying anything, because the monkeys are greedy. Katsina is Mr. President’s home state. It ranks among the top in out-of-school children, lowest, too, in terms of grades in national and regional examinations. But the greedy monkeys were more concerned about having the microphone off.
It is okay, it is okay that we have turned national discussion to “awada-kerikeri” (comedy), I am sure many won’t understand that term, especially those that are not Mushin boys. In local parlance, the thunder that should strike the monkeys of today that are busy neglecting the children of today is “doing press-up.”
While truth be told on the one hand, there is much scientific data to suggest that even our youngest children have already lost academic and social readiness during the COVID-19 slump. After all, we don’t really do research, that is why billions are spent (stolen) in the guise of condolence visits. You begin to wonder if they visited God to condole Him on the death of Christ, or they went to Wuhan to condole the people…?
Do our monkeys, in their greed, know that COVID-19 has affected even more children from underserved communities? Science tells us that social relationships with friends and teachers are essential for social and academic learning during early childhood. Children learn, love, and thrive best when interacting with other adults and children. For example, research shows that strong language skills are born in the context of conversations with other people. Interactions between young children, their peers, and adults—real interactions—literally mould areas of the brain that support social bonding, language, and the seeds of literacy. Put simply, social relationships play a critical role in learning and child development.
Are we ready for anything? It is almost 24 months after the London launch of the Nigeria Air project, nothing is flying because it is okay to turn off the microphone, our children’s future is of no consequence.
Seriously, nations are in the labs looking for solutions to COVID-19; in some cases, their economic teams are trying to ease the pressure, in other cases provide succour, and plan for the children to go back to school. We are here increasing taxes through all sorts of stamps and duties, punishing ordinary citizens by increasing every tariff. Should we not as a people focus on conversations around our children with respect to public health? There is much that we do not know. Data are still evolving and are sometimes contradictory on 1) the level of health risk children with COVID-19 personally face; 2) whether children are more likely to be asymptomatic shedders; and 3) whether children are likely to spread COVID-19 to teachers and parents.
According to a recent report based on international data, countries like Denmark and Germany have had fairly safe results. This is to be contrasted with data out of Israel suggesting that school reopening created a spike in cases. It remains unclear what factors (that is, timing of reopening with respect to national COVID-19 trajectories and other cultural factors) drive these differences. Instead, our own NCDC, or is it NDDC (these days every corrupt entity seems to have a ‘C’), is churning out Naijabet-like COVID fatalities.
A new study out of Korea examined 65,000 people and concluded that even younger children do catch and spread the virus. Those under 10 are roughly half as contagious. A true unknown is whether the virus has lasting effects on children as they grow up. We are mute on these debates and concentrating on monkeys that lack political accountability, that have failed in building reliable and transparent institutions.
Importantly, we have yet to know whether young children can follow the safety mandates. Try to envision a group of four-year-olds really keeping a mask on throughout the day. It is as baffling as imagining a team of three-year-olds who can truly keep six feet apart! Ask any parent or early childhood educator: Preschoolers are not known for following rules. But you know, really, our greedy adults cannot do better when left with public funds, they are not worried about the points you and I are concerned about.
Monkeys that are not worried about rising inflation, and unemployment figures that are scary; senior monkeys that violate safety, health and security protocols, how can they think about tomorrow’s future? So, what is a parent to do? What is a teacher to do? What policies should guide decisions about whether, and if so, how, to open school? This is the balancing act. And we are not talking about it. The children must go back to school whether today, tomorrow or yesterday.
However the ‘ish’ is that the monkeys are extremely greedy and blinded, have equally offed the microphone, so cannot make appropriate plans for the right provisions in place, the result in future would be lethal. I support that returning to school is important for the healthy development and wellbeing of children, but we must pursue reopening in a way that is safe for all students, teachers, and staff.
There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for reopening, and significant resources will be required. Local conditions are paramount.
These include the prevalence of the virus in the community, the health risks for staff (teachers and custodial staff), whether adequate financial resources are provided for schools to disinfect classrooms, students and employees are screened for symptoms, and academic spaces are reconfigured, such as by setting up tented learning areas for outdoor classes.
The risk-benefit calculus is also influenced by individual characteristics associated with student needs. Importantly, children from underserved communities—who are disproportionately poor—as well as children with food insecurity and special needs often receive services that are only provided through schools.
The bottom line is that the answer is just not as black and white as many in the media lead us to believe. Decisions about whether and how to reopen schools require a delicate balance of dynamic factors. The sad part of my concluding paragraphs is that our greedy monkeys are not talking about these things.
Surely, with such complicated decisions, a scientific response, rather than a political one, is in order. The scientific data about how children are affected by and spread COVID-19 are accumulating before our eyes. While the health risks are real, they must be balanced with the scientific consensus that children must be around other people. The optimal way for schools to strike this balance is not yet known.
Our thieving monkeys have failed as today’s men, they would be trapped not by anything physical, but by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served them well will become lethal, but we beg of them, can they at least make informed decisions about how to keep our children safe while also feeding them the psychological nutrients to develop in a healthy way, or should we just off the microphone and leave everything because it is okay? Only time will tell.