Indrek Kiisler: Overreaction by heads of schools needs to be opposed

Indrek Kiisler.
Indrek Kiisler. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

With less than a week until school starts, students and their parents still do not know how things will work this fall. Some school operators have started to overreact and erect barricades against the virus.

Estonia's coronavirus case rate remains low, with the virus virtually absent among children. A debate is ongoing in Finland of whether to test children under the age of 10 at all as it basically constitutes a waste of money.

Young people aren't hit nearly as hard by the virus as the elderly. These repeatedly communicated and reasoned circumstances have been common knowledge since spring and yet preparations for the soon to begin schoolyear look like the fall of 1944 when war machines were rolling over Estonia and children needed to be put in shelters.

A principal of a Tallinn elite school told ERR that they do not believe professor Irja Lutsar's claim according to which children do not actively spread the virus. They simply do not believe it and that's that. Neither do dozens of other school heads and teachers, not to mention thousands of parents.

And because they don't believe it, the wiser course of action is to take immediate action and erect barricades against the virus. Let us have high school and ninth grade students on partial digital study from September! Let us change the start of the schoolyear, disperse and hide the children and teachers from the virus! One principal promised to acquire a modern scanner to perform more effective health checks on the door.

This spring's experience was tough on students, teachers and education executives. Thousands of children all over Estonia stopped studying and were alienated from education and their friends. Teachers made superhuman efforts juggling online channels and teaching remote classes. Many parents were working from home in spring and could help their children cope. Now, parents are back at work and children are home alone.

The education minister admits that this autumn will be spent catching up on things children did not learn in spring. And the best place to do that is in school, with the teacher standing in front of the class, not through a computer screen, while lounging on the couch eating chips.

There are parents who would rather keep their children away from the schoolhouse. After all, COVID-19 has been made into an elite disease and more dangerous than anything mankind has seen all over the world.

The Tallinn Education Department has said that the epidemiological situation is normal and we are in the green zone so to speak. Therefore, we have no reason to give up on a normal start to the schoolyear.

We know that driving culminates in the deaths of 50-70 people in Estonia every year and that hundreds more are crippled for life. Yet, we would consider the police chief insane for suggesting we limit speeds to 15 kilometers an hour from September in fear of black ice that is sure to form in November. At the same time, heads of schools overreacting with what can be considered similar proposals are just fine.

A lot depends on communication. The education ministry did not publish its recommendations until last week, while heads of schools are now meeting with local leaders to agree on details.

Students and their parents are in the dark in terms of how things will work a mere week before school starts. Perhaps the vacations of education officials should have been cut a little short this year… but that is a separate topic.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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