No child should be left behind – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Errol N Benjamin -
Dr Errol N Benjamin –


NO MATTER how you try to justify allowing vaccinated students to attend physical school and preventing those who are not is an undeniable form of discrimination.

Bad as it is to close the nation’s beaches, or to deny one a glass of wine at dinner, or to limit social interaction in all its forms, which is the essence of human civilisation as we have come to know it, you cannot simply lump the children in a one-size-fits-all policy of essentially hiding from covid19 and not trusting the people to care for their own lives.

The children are the nation’s future, the architect of its destiny, and for such a task they must be emotionally and intellectually endowed to function in the myriad capacities required.

And from whence would such endowment come? From their education of course, without which there would be a future generation of emotionally and intellectually underdeveloped adults without the cognitive capacity and emotional stability to deal with the challenges which the society would pose for them when it’s their turn.

Are the planners saying that such capacity is only for a select few who have fallen into line with their policy of “vaccinate to operate,” and the rest be damned? Have they considered that in any human situation not all will conform? That many may have valid concerns about this vaccine? That with all the anti-vax sentiment many parents would not want their children to be so exposed? That many are logistically debarred from responding to the call to take the vaccine because the “community” thinking is one of caution or even indifference, or that a rural environment may be a natural impediment?

Not to mention, of course, that theirs is the democratic right to freedom of choice for which they should not be punished, inter alia, and that you can’t just dump such children just so. A way has to be found to educate them just as the others, and if it becomes necessary, to find innovative ways to do so.

The onus is on the planners to see that these “non-conformist” children, for whatever reasons, are equally a part of the future of this nation and virtually dispensing with them is not an option, can never be an option. And that even as the planners try to persuade those children into taking the vaccine, and perhaps improve on the online teaching, which incidentally is in itself a form of discrimination because of its obvious limitations, they must in the meantime invent ways of getting the unvaccinated children in the physical environment of the classroom equal to that of the vaccinated.

And masked if necessary, with masked teachers, physical distancing in the seating, with limits to their movement in their free time, supervised by parents with medical personnel on standby, so that they can share in this great responsibility of carrying the nation forward for the future on their shoulders.

For to do otherwise is to say to the nation that we as leaders do not endorse the “value of every single human being” and to discriminate against some is justifiable collateral damage, and that for the future we should not look into the schoolbags of all the nation’s children, as the “Father of the Nation” would have wished.

Or simply that the future of the nation in a progressive sense does not really matter at all, for all that really matters is the mechanics of the politics and how we can use it to best serve ourselves.

But such couldn’t be, for leaders are made of “sterner stuff,” but is it?

As usual I leave the answer to you.