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Hey Tories! Leave Them Kids Alone

There’s a short science fiction story called ‘All Summer in a Day,’ by Ray Bradbury. It’s about some school kids growing up on Venus where the sun only appears for an hour every seven years. The rest of the time it rains. Only one of the kids, Margot, is old enough to remember seeing the sun and the other kids tease her about it. Right before the brief period of sunshine, Margot is locked in a cupboard and misses out on the experience that means so much to her. I’ve been reminded of this story a LOT since the start of the pandemic.

There was a lot of fear to soak up growing up in the 80’s. People were obsessed with disaster, particularly nuclear war. There was war in the Falklands, the Yorkshire Ripper, the far-right. Still the world felt limitless, we had a freedom today’s kids couldn’t imagine. We didn’t do school projects about a dying planet. Didn’t know about Donald Trump. We learned our green cross code and not to talk to strangers. It was easy to forget all the bad things going on in the world.

That was taken from our children a long time ago. But the capitalists haven’t stolen enough. They want our babies back in their classrooms so we can get back to work. The world’s best and cutest germ spreaders are expected to not touch their friends. They won’t be hugged when they fall over and for six hours a day, they’ll be constantly reminded of the danger we’re facing. Teachers can’t make this fun and exciting. Not when they know the consequence is death. I’m running behind one nine-year-old, making sure he washes his hands before opening the fridge or after using the toilet. It’s also much easier to calm the fears of one nine year old. It would be a different story if they all put their little heads together. Romario wasn’t scared of Momo until the class discussed Momo and then all hell broke loose at bedtime.

School is a different environment entirely. Children use the toilets at the same time. There are no lids on school toilets as they could trap tiny fingers. Faecal particles are dispersed around the toilets with every flush. Many primary school loos are small and have little ventilation and Covid likes to hang around in children’s stools for a long time. Of course, teacher will have to stand breathing in the Covid poop particles while they ensure the kids wash their hands properly. I’ve also yet to see a hand pump soap in school and my son’s school rarely has enough soap. Halting the spread of Coronavirus in primary school toilets is impossible.

(Image: WC sign)

Viral load will also be an issue in the classroom. In the early days of the pandemic, a passenger on a bus in Wuhan spread the virus to 13 passengers without physical contact. Some of them were infected after the passenger got off the bus. If you have one child in a classroom shedding virus, those who contract it can start to shed immediately. Over the course of a day, the air in the classroom gets loaded with virus particles and the teacher that breathes it in and gets a much higher dose of the virus. This is one of the reasons so many medics and carers are dying. A higher viral load means more of a struggle for the immune system and a greater chance of needing ICU treatment.

Because we haven’t been tracking and tracing in this country, the public missed a lot of important information about viral dynamics. While we’re binning tests and losing thousands of results, other countries are using contact tracing and learning about different strands of Covid19. Tracking where those strands are prevalent and how they present in those infected. As we’re still letting in fifteen thousand international passengers a day into the UK, it’s likely all those strands now exist here. When different strands of a virus find themselves in the same environment, that’s when things start to get really spicy.

The government says they are proceeding with caution, but this isn’t something we can safely paddle back from. A week in school will cost thousands of lives. First to fall will be school staff. Another gift for our children. Yes, they get to kill their teachers. This generation of British kids will be remembered around the world for centuries to come. They’ll have a catchy name like the millennials and boomers. And guess what? It will all be their fault. Like it’s Greta’s fault her generation use plastic straws and aeroplanes.

Most of them will be too young to understand. They’ll unwittingly infect their parents and grandparents. My son’s classmates are mainly of Pakistani heritage. Many live with extended family here, in one of the poorest council wards in the UK. I’ll have no part of it. My son won’t be returning to school until I believe it is safe to do so. If teachers don’t flex their autonomy, I doubt I will entrust them with my child again. Which sounds tough. But if they can walk, or be forced into this scenario, what will they be persuaded by government to do next?

Within a fortnight the NHS will be overwhelmed with teachers, parents and kids with strange Kawasaki type symptoms. And afterwards, when our children return to school grieving, there will be no help for them. It’s all been cut to the bone and the Tories are already wielding their axe for the next round. Before Coronavirus, mental health and youth services could barely provide a sticking plaster for the complex issues today’s young people face. I’ve heard no comment from any politician, about the psychological impact of sending our children to school mid-pandemic or how that will be addressed.

There’s nobody left to help heal our children from this nightmare and, as they grow, they’ll come to realise the true cost of their education. They’ll read for themselves, the shrieks of conservatives demanding their sacrifice. Calling their teachers cowards. Callously reducing children’s lives to percentages. Like the pollution and the wars, I don’ think they’ll thank us for it. It’s raining all over the world but we’ve got the power to stop it. If we want to see the sunshine again, all we have to do is protect the kids.

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