Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Covid, Education and Development

Covid, Education and Development

Covid-19 places a microscope over the human being, human behavior, good governance and provides an insight into the future

Basic facts

Let us start with some basic facts. Covid-19 is a virus which is highly infectious. Fact. Maybe up to half the people infected feel no symptoms at all. Fact. The other half do feel symptoms, ranging from a general lethargy, aching limbs, sore throat, headache, temperature, diarrhoea, vomiting...one, some or all of these in varying degrees of discomfort from very mild to extremely uncomfortable. Some of these (maybe 15%) end up in hospital and some 3% die from it (20% in the over-80 age group). People with chronic conditions may see these worsened by Covid-19, especially those with respiratory illnesses (including heavy smokers). Facts. Not touching the face, frequently washing the hands, washing down all frequently used surfaces (desks, worktops, taps, door handles) with soap and water, using gloves and then spraying the same surfaces with alcohol-based disinfectant, drastically reduces the viral load on them. Fact. Wearing a face mask, either a rewashable cloth one or a medical grade N95 (reducing 95% of small particles passing through it) and social distancing (2 metres at least) further reduces the risk of infection. Fact. Follow all these guidelines, which are not rocket science, and the risk of getting Covid-19 is very low. Fact.

It depends, of course, on how others behave. In a household of five, four members can follow these steps but a fifth can infect everyone by being stupid, going out with friends, without using a mask, drinking beer from the same bottle and passing around a cigarette and voilà... mommy I don't feel so good, I got this cough and fever and a bit of a headache, I think I'm coming down with something. Right, now go and kiss your grandma, you idiotic little punk, and finish the job. Your family will experience a death before Christmas.

How others behave is the question

And how others behave is the question here. Anyone seeing international TV stations last weekend will have been shocked at the scenes coming from London, where most of the bright and beautiful beings hiding in the woodwork came out to play, without masks, complaining about the obligation to wear them, in a country which was pitifully slow in getting to grips with basic common sense policies already practised in the rest of Europe for many months.

And how governments behave is a mirror of how people behave. After floundering around in U-turns (despite the fact that in 2002 a movie was made of a pandemic respiratory virus in which Chloroquine was used to help defeat it, despite the fact that in 2016 an exercise was held on this very topic in the USA and the information was shared with its so-called partners, "poodles"). A growing wealth of evidence points towards Zinc + Hydroxychloriquine being effective, around which a wall of silence has been built while we still wait to see which of the Pharmaceutical giants make billions out of medicines and vaccines, while Cuba already has 18 treatments rolled out and Cuba and Russia, and China, have vaccines in the latest stages of testing but in the west, all they talk about is Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.

A political decision, how surprising. OK thousands can die but we aren't going to use the Cuban, Russian or Chinese vaccines. Why? Because. So let Cuba save Latin America, let Russia and China save Africa and South-East Asia and Central Asia and let Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand wait for the wonderful, wizzy new western vaccine. And how many families will experience deaths before Christmas while they wait?

Sorry about your grandmother, Mr. Smith, yes we know the Russian vaccine was ready but we don't use Russian vaccines here, they might make people communists... we're waiting for the Ministry to OK the British one. Oh she has passed already has she? Oh well then, call her a patriot, what?

Translation: They would rather you died than give, sorry sell, you a vaccine from Cuba, Russia or China. And now back to behavior.

Social distancing and mask wearing are unpopular among people who are tired of Covid and just want to go back to normal. It is rather like those who blindly believe in everything they read against Russia (a pile of nonsense, but they believe it hook, line and sinker without even a fleeting question), or those in the UK who want the Prime Minister "to get on with Brexit just because" even if they know that any form of Brexit is ruinous for the UK economy and that the No Deal that Johnson and his minions seem to be pressing ahead with, an utter social and economic catastrophe.

Mask wearing is very much to protect the community from an inwards-outwards event of passing the virus through coughing or speaking but also provides a measure of protection from outwards to inwards, so it makes sense. Finally, it seems that the penny has dropped and governments across the world, after 6 months, have managed to agree on this.

Also, and again finally, they seem to have agreed on the benefits of distance working, something that Professor Yuval Noah Harari was already speaking about several years ago in his book Homo Deus. Not only does distance working protect people, it also gives them the chance to spend more time with their families, less time in public transportation and traffic jams, more time for cultural pursuits such as reading, seeing paintings and listening to music (why not draw up a list of the classics in these three genres of culture?) and also it gives companies the chance to cut back on accommodation costs.

...and Education

And now to finish with the e-word, Education. Distance working, masks, social distancing, fine. But sending kids and University students back to school as if nothing has happened defies logic and goes against the grain of the common-sense policies which dictate the more people you get together, the more cases you have and families will experience another death before Christmas.

While it is good for children to play together and form real-life relationships, while it is part of University life to interact and party, there is a stark reality:

Little Johnny went to school

In spite of all the coughing

He didn't break a single rule

But came home in a coffin

Another rule that Covid-19 has taught us is that the younger you are, the less likely you are to develop severe symptoms (or any symptoms) but there are exceptions and nobody wants their child to be part of that statistic. While little Johnny might not come home in a coffin, his grandmother might be in one before Christmas if he hugs her.

Get the class material online

The school system is based around 12 years (13 in the UK) with three terms each, so 36 (or 39) easy-to-mark periods (1.1;1.2;1.3...12.3 etc). While the delivery of a class online is better than nothing, there are problems when students do not have a computer or a microphone or a camera working or when three students share the same house and the one at University needs the laptop for a tutorial. Why aren't all the classes in all the years/periods available online to access whenever, wherever? Not only to get us through this pandemic but future ones. And when I mention class material, I mean the delivery of a class, exercises, answer keys and regular testing. For those who complain about not having the resources, remind them that if there is money available for submarines...

And here there are two points. Let the young ones know that a pandemic is a perfectly natural response from Nature against the human beings' disgusting management of this planet. A pandemic is a response to cutting fown forests and the ensuing destruction of habitat which acts as a resevoir for viruses, a pandemic is a response to the appalling conditions that animals are kept in before they are slaughtered and placed on our tables.

So let us tell the young ones that for those born after 2009, this is nothing new, it is their second pandemic and for those of us born in 1958, it is our fourth. This is important because kids look at adults and act like sponges, and imagine the invisible traumas and phobias building up inside when they see adults freaking out or lying on a hospital bed with a tube stuck down their throat.

Or lying in a coffin.

Photo: By Unknown author - http://www.epa.gov/region7/water/cafo/images/hogssm2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1863697