Ever had the dream where you are running away from something or someone, but it feels like you are running through syrup? These are recurring dreams of mine these days. It is a reflection of the frustrations I am facing at the moment with the education and covid testing situation.
When we decided to move out of South Africa, one of our biggest reasons was the education of our children. Don’t get me wrong, the education in South Africa is good if you pay a lot for your child to go to a private school and university. We wanted our children to receive a “first world” education. In Germany, school is generally world renowned and also compulsory. Well, it was until the Corona Pandemic hit. Before the Pandemic people were not really allowed to home-school their kids. Now we are in a situation where it is compulsory to send your children to school, but under many different obligations. Namely:
- The incidence level* has to be below 165 for your child to go to alternate day face-to-face class and below 50 to go everyday.
- They need to wear masks all day. There is now also a recommendation that the kids wear the surgical masks or the FFP2 (N26) masks.
- The kids need to be tested 2 or more times a week. At the moment they are doing self-nose-stick tests (at the front of the nasal passage) in the classrooms that the children (as young as 6) have to do themselves OR you can take your child to a chemist or doctor to get the invasive back-of-the-nose test. Some of the chemists and doctors do a spit test, but not all. Note: This is a very difficult option, because the chemists and doctors allocate a few hours in the day that they will test in and you would have to make an appointment within those hours. They do not open on Sundays or public holidays AND the test is only valid for 24 hours (if the incidence level is over 100, under 100 the test is valid for 48 hours).
- Oh, if the kids have had covid and been tested negative for more than 28 days or if they have had the vaccine (can anyone tell me this has been tested sufficiently to inject your child with?) then they do not have to be tested. Yay.
*the incidence level is the number of new cases per day for a period of 7 days per 100 000 people.
At this very moment I am grappling with the decision to send my child for the education, that we feel is very important, or to stand up and say “I am not OK with this”. The alternative is to keep my child home and carry on doing distance learning or homeschooling. As you can imagine, after most of the school year homeschooling my child in German (not my mother tongue and still not completely fluent), I’m starting to see the ramifications of her not being in school. She is starting to need the social contact, German language and teaching from someone who has studied this and knows how to teach children. Also, I really feel for the teachers in this situation. They have to teach their class on alternating days, send the kids home with a plan for the days they are not in school, mark and check the work and then on top will have to remember to send everything for the kids who are in quarantine or being home-schooled. A logistical nightmare. No wonder they have done away with tests and assignments this year.
I signed a form before Easter to say that I did not consent to my child being tested with the nose test at school. My reasons were mainly for the social aspect. I really do not like the idea. Why can’t we do a self test at home in a safe, non-public environment? Yesterday, when I called the school, they said that “most of the parents that did not give consent, have rescinded and are allowing their kids to be tested at school with the nose self test.” Am I wrong in feeling a little put out by this? What is the point of signing a form to give consent or not give consent if it is going to be overridden in the next possible moment? It is a different story if you sign consent and then the testing is not required. To reiterate my point: at the moment there is a school consent form about photos taken of our children in school, consent given/not given for photos to be distributed publicly in the media or internet. What if they say to the parents, who did not consent to their kids photos to be posted on the internet, that they are then not allowed at school unless they do consent to having their kids photos posted? What do you think the parents would say about that? The school said to me “but I’m not sure what your issue is, the tests are really not that bad. We haven’t had any complaints from the school children so far.” I don’t think it is just my German that they are not understanding.
There is another option that we have signed up for with the school. As far as I understand, it is a study run by a private lab to see where the corona virus is coming from. This is also testing, but way less invasive. The lab sends each child home with vials for collecting gargle samples from the children before they come to school. Then all the vials are taken to the lab to be tested together. It will also be more anonymous that way. A concern would be that the children sit in the classroom together for 4 hours before they know if they are positive or not, but really, you can’t stop kids from mingling in the play parks anyway, so I don’t see the difference. This option is not available yet as the lab has offered this to all the schools in the area and now doesn’t have the capacity to serve all of them. Just more hoops to jump through.
I am pretty scared that if I consent to the nose tests on the condition that the gargle tests are almost available, they will scrap the idea of the gargle test all together. Lure us in with the pretense that there is more than one option. Wouldn’t it be easier to stick to something if everyone has finally consented and already doing it? Why not scrap the expensive project that will need volunteers to transport the vials to the labs everyday.
Here are the questions that are keeping me up at night:
- Am I holding my child back from her education because of my opinion?
- Am I using “they” too often as if someone is conspiring against me?
- Is one little, foreign family against the majority of people actually going to make a difference?
- Are there actually more little families that also feel alone and would stand with me if I just keep strong?
- If I give into this now, will I just give into the next thing that comes along?
- Am I OK with my personal boundaries being moved again and again until I concede? Where do I really draw the line?
- Am I being overly dramatic about the whole thing? Wouldn’t a child in Africa stick things up their nose hourly to get an education like the one our children are afforded?
- Isn’t it just easier to go with the flow instead of battling with the majority?
- Is this really what I want for my children?
Wading through syrup.