Corona has sent us to school


Corona has sent us to school

BY Ava-Marie Reid and
Lucien Reid

Friday, April 03, 2020

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The year 2020 has only just begun and yet what a year it has been. As if the death of young basketball legend Kobe Bryant were not enough to shake us up, we had the biggest-ever recorded earthquake in Jamaica. We were shaken, physically and otherwise.

Then, how can we forget the Windrush blowout that saw mass repatriation of Jamaicans, many of whom have never lived a day in Jamaica or have any relatives currently residing in the country.

Oh, how could we forget Harry and Meghan, the royals' major exit.

Closer to home, we had the epic by-election in which the overture of boycotting by one major political party became a reality — that needs no reintroduction.

Just off the heels of those events came the dreadful coronavirus to our shores. Being a small-island developing state, the popular opinion was that this would lead to the end of Jamaica as we know it. Some of us might have planned in January and early February that as soon as the first case hit Jamaica I would buy five plane tickets and fly away to a country of safety and well-endowed with resources. Well, we all see where that headed. Resources now mean unity and compassion, not money or N95 masks.

The coronavirus has sent us to school so much so that many things we once thought to be norms are being reimagined. Many things we thought we needed are being lived without. And, many ideologies are being reinvented.

Let's look at some:

1) The idea that First World suggests mindfulness is false. We are seeing with our very eyes that a particular world leader is seemingly overthrowing his own country and plotting his own people's demise.

2) The thought that because the great USA is number 15 on the Human Development Index does not mean coronavirus will come like a thief and disappear without much notice. The converse is true, then, that because Jamaica is number 94 on that index does not mean we will falter; instead, it's possible that we will rise like “bajie kite”, even as incomparable, economically, as we are to the mighty USA.

3) The idea that school needs four walls to facilitate the proper educational process for our students is false. We all, young and old, rich and poor, have got to be inventing ways to carry on with “school”.

4) The thought that teachers are not essential workers has now been subject to rethinking and new narratives are being developed.

5) The idea that going to school simply to do eight subjects or earn a degree is being reimagined; after all, at the end of the tenure used for study purposes it may boil down to an school-based assessment and 60 multiple choice items — as in the case of current policy from the Caribbean Examinations Council.

In other words, school was always supposed to be about social skills, emotional intelligence, etiquette, discipline, and not just about “pass or fail”. Now we are forced to understand it.

6) The idea that politics or politicians are powerful is so weak. Given our current status, all Cabinet is concerned about now is flattening the numbers — not in the national budget, not the crime, but the cases of coronavirus.

I can't help but think how simple, powerless, and human we all are, regardless of status, colour, class, or creed, we all have to “tan a wi yaad” and wait on the coronavirus to “come thru, cut and gwaan”. This coronavirus has sent us to school; wherever our schools are.

Some very interesting voice notes have been making the rounds; if you have not heard them, then, as we say in Jamaica: Part of yuh life gone! Let's get serious, though, in some voice notes parents have been crying out about how they just cannot manage teaching their own children. For some, it's the content to be taught, yet for others it is managing the everyday matters. It is all really a learning process. And the coronavirus is not an easy-going teacher; we have to listen to it and get it together — and fast, or else.

In the long run, if we will fail this school — and be forced to contend with the reality of being a 'dropout' — our children will have major deficits.

One thing is sure, if ever a time I am happy to be in school, regardless of who or what has sent me, it is now. Particularly, I am happy to be in a Jamaican school: Eternal Father, bless our Land, guard us with thy mighty hand.

Ava-Marie Reid is a senior lecturer and research officer at Shortwood Teachers' College and Lucien Reid is vice-principal at Meadowbrook High School.

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