Day Three. Schools are closed, aren’t they?

close up of girl writing
Photo by Pixabay on

Even before it was clear that we were heading inside the eye of the storm, in this pandemic, the call to close down all schools, were being sung in unison from all across the public and the media. Like it were a solution to everything going on and a means to an end, to this predicament.  Children were identified as carriers, super spreaders as some called them and since, thankfully, they seemed to be less effected by Covid 19. Confining them to their homes to save the older and vulnerable generation was needed.

Working in the education sector and being a father of two children who are in primary school. I waited patiently, reading, watching and listening to the news every day, on the latest strategies and if there was a need, to close at all.  Like most working parents, it was a catch 22 situation. We all knew what the impact of a school closure would mean for us, at the same time, we needed to consider how safe were our kids and the wider society with the virus spreading as fast it was.  A big part of me wanted the government to push the whole closure until after the Easter Holidays, to give us time to prepare and minimise impact on the children’s learning. But as numbers started to rise around the country, staff/teachers starting to self isolate with worried parents keeping their children at home and more bad news came out of Italy and Spain. The ever loud vocals became even louder, leading the government to cave in and order schools and colleges across the UK to close indefinitely. You could almost hear the big sigh of relief from the public and the media. But what was even more damning, was all up and coming exams were cancelled too. Meaning no pupils will be taking their SATS, GCSEs or A- levels this year. Sounds like a dream for students, right?

When the news started sinking in the next morning, we were left to confront the magnitude of what was announced. Our children/s would have to be at home for a potential of five months and unlike other holidays, they would have no choice but to be entertained inside the four walls of our own homes. Going out to the parks, a trip abroad or even a domestic getaway was not an option.  Very quickly, it dawned on us, our lives were about to change drastically for the foreseeable future, that we as parents would also have to take on the responsibility of being teachers. Those of us who could, couldn’t even send them to their grandparents, aunts or even friends, in the risk of them passing on or picking up the virus, we had to be with them 24/7. It seemed like a perfect case of, be careful of what you wish for. All of a sudden the romantic notion of closing down schools, wasn’t that romantic after all.

Working in education for nearly my whole career, a very small part of me was a little happy. For years, I had to sit and endure, listening to a growing number of people unfairly criticise and pass their outdated views about our education system and schools. Blaming teachers, head teachers, TAs, pastoral staff and even the whiteboard for the under attainment of their children. Pretty much, passing on the blame to everything instead of accepting their part to play in the equation. I gritted my teeth, when people and families who made no effort in keeping themselves up to date with modern times or education, started smear campaigns against the system. Accusing the education system of absurd and ill formed rumours, such as how they were conspiring to teach five years old to be gay or lesbian, influencing them to change their genders and showing porn in classrooms. Trying to plead with parents to stop them from taking their child out of education in the middle of the term, only to have a cheap holiday abroad, refusing to accept or resùpect the system enough to know why that would be a bad idea. It seemed, schools and teachers had become punching bags and looked upon as system that was invading people’s free will, by some parents and the wider society. With no regards, sensitivity or appreciation, of how much schools actually do for the wellbeing and welfare of a child. The small part of me was hoping in this time of lockdown, parents will see the impact of teachers and learn to appreciate a sector we sometimes take for granted. They can finally understand, that the full potential of a child in their learning, behaviour and mental health is a collective responsibility and effort from both families and schools, and not just the schools alone.  Maybe this isolation would be a perfect time to reflect the deep impact of our teachers and schools.

But a major part of me found it difficult to process the whole thing. Last Friday, as both my kids got up in the morning getting ready for their final day at school, I was greeted with a look of confusion from their small faces. It wasn’t the cheerful face filled with excitement they usually have, the morning before a big holiday. Their faces were anything but jubilant.  All I saw were two faces of uncertainty and sadness, looking for answers, I could not provide. Getting ready to say goodbye to their teachers and friends, much sooner than they anticipated and for a reason they had not quite grasped. No idea, if they will be taught by their current teachers again.  Amongst the crowd as I walked to work, were year 6 pupils, faced with the prospect of saying goodbye to their primary schools without the proper send off we all know year 6 students are used to getting. Year 11 pupils, with their emotions quite clear, as they walked their last day to school.  Not having the opportunity to complete their GCSEs they worked and prepared so hard for.

As the day went on, I heard stories of children crying, distraught and upset in the hallways and toilets of their schools. Writing notes to their favourite staff members, telling them how much they will miss them and how much they meant. This was not how it was supposed to be, our children, your children, were not meant to say goodbye like this.

And the teachers, who dedicated their time and effort to teach these children with sheer stubbornness and will. Did they have smiles on their faces for being closed early for the year? No, every teacher from the ones in my children’s school, along with my two cousins (teachers), who I have been chatting to every day, were anxious, upset and broken with one question on their minds- what will happen to their pupils? We forget, how much school staff and teachers love, care and want nothing but the best for their pupils. They pride themselves when their pupils do good, it gives their work value and a sense of reward and their pupils pain is theirs to share too.  Maybe in this time of isolation we can spare a thought for all the teachers, staff and head teachers that cried, upon hearing the news of their school closing, who felt the heartbreak of the pupils who could not take the exams they have prepared so diligently for. The pupils they won’t see again, the pupils they taught, laughed, joked and believed in. The ones, that didn’t think twice to volunteer themselves and cancel their holidays, to help out at this time of great crisis.

Just for the record, schools are not closed. They are more open now, than ever. The children of key workers are not the only ones attending schools. The children that are considered, the most vulnerable in our society, those with special educational needs or under child protection, for whom being at school is considered a better place for them to be, than being at home, are also in schools being looked after and cared for by teachers and staff who had volunteered to stay. There are no Easter holidays, no half term and maybe not even summer holidays. Staff members have taken on this responsibility, for the nation and for their pupils. These are staff making calls at home to check on the wellbeing of children,  ensuring those children who are entitled to free school meals are getting their meals, making packs at school for parents to pick up, Those who are at home, are still working virtually to help the kids at home through their devices . Schools are far from closed, they are carrying on doing what they have always been doing, looking after the wellbeing of our children and giving them the education they deserve.

Having worked in education all my life, in recent years, I have seen a devastating trend of schools being blamed for every aspect of a child. They seem like an easy target for everyone to throw bottles at, when talking about society. They are expected to be social workers, behaviour therapists and parents, everything but their main roles of educators.  Teachers start their day at 7am and finish at 6pm, following ridiculous standards, set by the government. They are overworked and underpaid.  In this time of home schooling our children, we can understand the great responsibility they have and the amount of work they put in. They are key workers too, just like all part of our great public services, they play an important role in the fabric of our society and one of the pillars of our infrastructure.  We don’t want another crisis to happen to see them as heroes, just like it took us this crisis to see how important the NHS and their worker are. Let’s learn to appreciate and support them now, just like we are doing with everything else. Let’s take this chance to look within ourselves and realise, that educating a child is a collective effort.

Give every school staff who worked with your child, a gesture of recognition, it can be something simple as a thank you.  Listen and understand your children and accept their ability and let them grow in their own pace, it is not just one person’s responsibility, it’s equally all of ours.

Day Two- What’s Next?

On Monday, The UK government put in measures that set democracy back to the dark ages and pushed the UK into a police state, similar to dictatorial regimes, rather than the free democratic country we pride ourselves on. We got the tone and the reason. They are doing this to save lives and it is all a temporary measure. A means to an end, to an unprecedented, never been seen before situation.  How quickly we succumbed to their reasoning and the swift way these actions were put into place, with people’s acceptance and somewhat sweet embrace, is a debate to be had for many later years and dinner conversations.

Whichever way you choose to see it, the undeniable truth is, this week our social liberties was stripped away from us. Popping out for a pint of milk, or just some fresh air in the newly spring sun, which chose this week of all week to show its face, requires us to think about, what we have to tell the law enforcement on the streets. Maybe now, we can have the most real experience of what it is like for those around the globe who are living or have lived under dictatorial regimes and apartheid states.  In your state of self isolation you have to wonder what is next and how do we adapt? To not only to now, but the future and what we, as collective individuals need to do to move forward towards tomorrow.

This week, we have seen many defy the social distancing rules.  The reasons are many, for this. Some have had to go into work, some wanted to enjoy the spring sun, some are yet to take this pandemic seriously.  Our main defiance comes from not being conditioned, to live under such dire circumstances. The more people rebel, the more the more the government have promised to come down on us with their iron fist.

But what was the reason behind to what many critics have described, as a late lockdown? Was it because the government predicted the people’s attitude in not wanting it, or was it delayed because we simply didn’t have the tools to do so? Why was it so hard and what can be done to avoid a repeat of this current situation?

This war against Covid 19 is only the beginning. This is the first of a new threat that has emerged in our globe. This one doesn’t have a face, a country, a leader, or even an ideology – the enemy is microbes and the target is pretty much everyone. Albert Einstein famously quoted that he does not know what weapons will be used to fight WW3 but WW4 would be fought with stones and spears. Was this his metaphorical prediction? A stark reminder, the weapons we have built are futile in this war.

For decades, we have been presented with an endless list of threats, from Al Qaida, ISIS, Taliban, North Korea, Soviet Union, Gaddafi and Saddam. Nations, dictators and groups have been used as a bogey man to invade lands, build an arsenal of destructive weapons and train armies after armies to defend our social values and freedom of choice.  Since 9/11, we watched questionable measures put in to defend the liberty of the West. Reminded, that this common enemy wants to end our way of life and our will to live free. The past decade, Europe had seen atrocious terror attacks, France, UK, Norway, to name a few. Each forcing the government to take actions and prepare themselves, and us the public to be vigilant for the next oncoming attack. We saw investments in terror tactics for the police forces, comtroveesial laws being passed, citizenship being stripped away from people and getting involved in more pointless foreign wars.  Here in the UK we also saw the roll out of the Prevent programme in schools.  Did it any of this help? We will never know. Maybe the weapons, the nukes, the intelligence and the secret spying has made the world and the UK a safer place? The truth is, we will never know what they have prevented from happening. But what is quite clear, is none of these threats or attacks had an impact on our way of life, the way Covid 19 has. In the world of terrorism, it is the Granddaddy of them all. It has achieved, what they told us, every terrorist in this world wanted to achieve – a lockdown of our lives and our liberty. You won’t hear any leaders stand in their podium and give uplifting speeches about how to go on about our daily lives and not to let the virus win. If anything they are telling us the opposite.  We are all locked in our houses with nowhere to go. So, how do we adapt ourselves and how do we prepare for the next of its kind and shape the world after this?

The world changed after 9/11. From the ashes of the Twin Towers, a new world arose. Lessons were learnt and alliances were forged to move forward and this is what we have to do now.

There have been calls that the UK did not heed warning fast enough and a lockdown should have been enforced sooner.  But would an earlier lockdown been justified a month ago, when cases of Covid 19 here in the UK was low? There was also a bigger question. Where we able to manage to run a country from sitting in our homes? Closing schools and offices was just not feasible.  The truth is, UK, even as one of the top five developed nation,  is sadly lacking the technological advancements or attitud needed in the modern world. This should be our focus and the area that requires huge level of investment, thoughts, determination and tenacity.  In order to prepare for the next outbreak or something similar, whenever or where that is. Our plan of action should be how quickly we can adapt to the safety of our homes.  Do what we are doing now, more efficiently with little disruptions and keep the country going.

We have all seen pictures uploaded on social media, from colleagues, friends and family, eager to share their makeshift offices, be it in the kitchen, their balcony, their bedrooms, the small space in their passage or the luxurious ones who have an office already kitted in their living room. It took a pandemic for us to utilise the technology we had and make us realise how productive we can be at home and do our work from the comfort of our own homes. Many of us who have never worked from home, or assumed we never could, realised the flexible nature of our jobs.

The same goes for schools, the day it was announced schools would close. There were teachers scratching their heads and parents too, how to carry on the education of children in this unforeseen circumstance. With no idea of when schools will re-open. Advice and package differed from school to school, local authority to local authority. Some opted to give packs, whilst other set up virtual schools from their own schools bases and others directed families, with links to You Tube and governmental websites for families to follow.

It was quite clear where the gaps where. In  a world where we are being constantly reminded how technology is changing or ruining children, when it came down to when it was actually needed, there seemed to be very few coordination or a single point of access for children to go to, to follow a curriculum. Whilst many countries are way ahead and have well established virtual schools implemented, from when this virus was something dreamed up in sci-fiction movies.

We saw online retailers close temporarily or laying out special measures to deal with the huge surges of orders. But could this all be blamed on the large volume of us staying at home and ordering or is our technological understanding or infrastructure not advanced as we think it is. To give an example of how far we might behind in technology, I remember a distinctive call in 2004, yes 16 years ago with an AOL representative, ordering broadband for our home. UK had only started getting 10x the speed of normal dial up. The representative told me she was in Tokyo in 2003 and they already had 100x faster internet. Here we are in 2020 and the UK is just approaching this. So while there are supermarkets in LA where you don’t have cashiers, you just pick up your groceries and leave. There are still some supermarkets here in London that requires to you cue up without even a self serving check out.

Covid 19 has exposed our weakness and   how much further we need to go in order to set up infrastructure that allow us to go remote, swiftly and efficiently without disruption, should the next super virus  strike. History tells us after times of great crisis, we learn, heal and adapt to make changes. After WW2 we saw the creation of our great NHS, the birth of the UN and later the EU, with the goal of working closer together as a unit, to avoid another world war.

With this mindset we need to move forward, the changes we can do individually and collectively to shape the world, so we don’t find ourselves back in this same position. The UK along with the world will change after this, so we need to adapt.

We have a great amount of disposable technology, which we were not aware off, as we speak, many of us old and young have come across new video conferencing apps such as Zoom, this last few weeks and many other existing technological advances that has the potential to make our everyday life easier. Maybe it was our naivety around what is available to us, made it harder to build a world where going into isolation was so difficult and too late. If we invest in our technological infrastructure and science, we will create world swift, compact and ready to deal with future crisis.

Create alternative ways of schooling and education. This is the time to encourage and lobby our politicians to invest in our new defence system, not in millions but billions, not in weapons but our younger generation to study science, to tackle the new level of biological threats that lies ahead in the same breath as we have invested in wars and weapons. To find cures for new and current diseases such TB, Ebola, Measles and not just treatments. We need to lobby, shout and make the government see, the level of investment they have made in warfare, missiles and hardcore machinery needs to go and we need a U turn. Now is the time to invest in a new war against an enemy, that has taken away our liberty, like no other regimes or terrorist organisations. This is the real fight for democracy and our right for free will and freedom, a war that does not bleed of imperialism and globalisation. The memory of this pandemic will live on us for a very long time. Never before has our freedom been challenged the way it has now. We need to preserve this memory to make the right changes and save our earth.

We need technology and science to bring us together, invest money to study renewable energy, to stop relying on GM crops and animals. It needs to come from all areas, from school, education, society and government.

Things need to change, we can’t stay on the same path. A total overhaul of how we work, live and think is needed to fight this new global threat. We need investment in a war that no longer invades and kills but rather heals lands and people.

Day One. What it all means?

Three months ago, my biggest worry for this country’s future and climate was that Boris Johnson had won the UK election in a historical landslide. Decimating Jeremy Corbyn and in doing so, walloping the final nail in the coffin for the Labour Party for at least two generations. The UK was divided, Brexiteers in jubilation rubbing salt to the wounds of Remainers, who were reeling from the success of the Tories.  I don’t read or remember reading any tabloids, but I’m sure the headlines would have been singing along the tunes of ‘WE’VE GOT OUR COUNTRY BACK’ or ‘TIME TO TAKE BACK CONTROL’. With Christmas and the New Year being ushered in, Boris the Messiah with his mop hair replacing his thorn crown, strutted in front of every available camera, promising the North more investments, whilst trying to convince the hardest of cynics,  the our great NHS was not up for sale to Trump and his croonies.

I accepted defeat and took it on the chin, ready with a personal glimpse of hope to face the upcoming year.  Promise number one, was to stay away from arm chair critiquing UK politics. Boris and the Tories were here to stay and we were at their mercy. So, whilst I sat down with my own goals of finding a new job, sending my finished manuscript of my first novel to agents, getting a book deal and healing from my back injury, I got during Christmas, to run at least two half marathons and a couple of 10k races . A seed had already been planted in Wuhan, China of all places, that was about to change everything for all of us.

It might sound cliché, but you couldn’t write this stuff,  its seems like we have been sucked into a post apocalyptic dystopian movie. Watching the day count as the situation around the globe gets dire with each passing of the sunset. I now find myself begging, to return back to the status quo of the past three and a half years, where talks of Brexit, second referendums and No Deals took up the headlines and our arguments.

It may only be March, but it’s hard to fathom many would say 2020 was their year by the time December 31st rolls in.  We sit in confusion ushering in an era that will be cemented in history, in the same breath as the WW1 and WW2 and contrasted with the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London.  We can only keep our fingers crossed that the mass casualty will be not be anywhere near these past atrocities and  there won’t be a need to erect monuments or plaques to make future generations remember the magnitude of fatalities.

None of us are short of theories, observations or views around what the World Health Organisation has declared a Pandemic. I am lost in the irony and the poetic nature of it all. In January, when the news of the now famous Covid 19 came about, I did not see any reason to worry. China’s problem, China’s issue- was my humble opinion. I laughed at a few Chinese nationals who started donning the face mask here in London. It was never going to make its way all the way here.  With each news article, I lambasted them as the usual case of the media fear mongering (which for some of the issues, they are still doing). With the rest of the UK I carried on, using my time sending memes on social media about this new strand of Coranavirus and having interesting conversations around it with work colleagues, friends and family.

I managed to secure two job interviews but wasn’t successfully in any of them, received three rejections for my manuscripts from literary agents. It was all sad, but just the pass and parcel of daily life. Taking each failure as a means to move on and make changes for the year. My goal was still for something pivotal to happen before my 38th Birthday.

In the first day of March I ran the Vitality Big Half Marathon in London for the third consecutive year and got a PB by running it under two hours. I was in the process of a successful switch over to a vegan diet and things were certainly looking up in terms of health, if not for anything else.

It’s now 23rd March 2020, only six days to go before my birthday. The sun is out ushering in Spring, it should have been the most optimistic time of the year for all us. I should be running on the roads, complaining about traffic and the ever increasing of population of London getting in my way. I should have been ready to hit those weights and cardio at the gym a bit harder, to sculpt that summer body and browse endless travel sites for good flight deals of holidays, not to travel, but to feel good about the potential of my independence.  But the world is a lot different than what it was only a month or even a week ago. Something inside me wishes that I could break the fourth wall and address the audience in the cinema, so they can fast forward to the end of this alternate parallel reality we have entered.

Restaurant, theatres, pubs, schools, gyms and all major national and international sporting events closed indefinitely. The global stock market crashing with recession booming around the corner. The roads of London-empty, landmarks gaining dust, the Underground, a ghost of the millions it transported each day. Supermarkets and shops  filled with shoppers panic buying, as owners seize the opportunity to inflate prices to 20% – 50%  to feed the greed.  Mayhem of Biblical proportions, which makes it all too eerie with, Mosques, Churches, Temples and Synagogues, where many would have turned to find salvation and hope at a time like this,  all closed off to the public, almost like God has abandoned and shut his doors to all the people. A poignant message as any, that we have angered the universe.

I find myself behind locked doors inside my house with my two children and their virtual education kit, skimming through fake news and fake memes, heading into an uncertain future. Nothing is off the card, if aliens dropped from the skies tomorrow for a War of the World type warfare, would it be a surprise?  Within a space of a few weeks, everything we debated, argued and posted on social media about has become trivial. We are now scouring news websites and channels, as governments around the world, speak in one voice and with one message.  Right- Wing capitalist governments, pushing forward a left wing socialist Government’s wet dream.   As we get used to new terms such as social distancing and what it all means, all the while we watch people scrounge from one shop to another, looking for toilet tissues, flour and salt like that is going to solve all the problems.  I sit and wonder what the deeper meaning is in all of this.

I am hoping to write these blog to help me decipher my thoughts with you all. So join me as I explore how I move forward with each part of my daily life in this new status quo, from being a father, to managing my fitness and my work life along with domestic chores and my new place in this world.

Asking societal questions such as how NHS workers, who for years been under so much pressure. Have over night become the heroes that we all knew they were. As a staunch supporter of schools and the education system, will people finally get to the see the impact they have and the many different roles teachers and school staff play in our children’s lives.

As we step forward into the unknown, our social fabric and liberty being stripped away from us, with each coming day without any, questions from the public but with embrace.  Now is a good as time as any, to question how quickly we encourage and romanticise dictatorial rules and how easy we can be controlled.

The first question we can ask ourselves is why? The last few years I had read various articles, citing the World’s Health Organisation biggest concern.  The human race was beginning to reject Anti-biotic, which would cause a new global catastrophe, unless we find a replacement.  I’m just surprised at the speed of how something so similar has struck our population.

Since Covid 19, we have seen videos re-surfacing of Bill Gates back in 2015 at Ted Talks, predicting the new global threat will be indeed – microbiological. An almost accurate prophecy from one of the richest and smartest man in the planet. Netflix has shown us documentaries from last year, about scientist and doctors predicting a pandemic. As usual, we never took heed, a threat and a warning is only as good when it’s actually here. And whilst this all makes sense, to me it means one thing. This is Mother Nature’s putting her foot down and giving us the ultimate check in. A stern warning, just how much in charge she is, as we face this invisible threat.

Since industrialisation we have ravaged, pillaged and gang raped nature from its core, with the same level of arrogance that we have seen in the last few weeks from panic buyers and hoarders. For the last two centuries, the tenacity and aggressiveness of mankind’s lust and hoarding for resources with no thoughts or compassion for the damage we are causing to our planet and its people, has led to this. No one is exempt from this, no countries, no religion or political systems have done anything to stop this madness. Unlike any point of history, we have become addicted and machined into this life of consumption. We are desensitised to practices, such as animals being unnaturally produced and in-humanely slaughtered to feed our unquenchable thirst. Mass lands and forests systematically burned and destroyed to feed our greed, as we litter our oceans with our poison.  Low cost airlines, allowing us to travel to places for weekends to take that perfect Instagram pictures, which a decade ago, one would have had to save up for at least year to go to. Limitless and cheap travel, which made this virus, spread the way it has in the period of three months.

We laughed at a young girl called Greta, who’s dream was for us to slow down and take care of our only planet.  Sidelining her calls as pipe dreams and something that will take decades, if ever, to achieve. But here we are, almost all flights grounded around the world, within a space of a few weeks, something even she could never had imagined. So as Mother Nature takes a rest, with cities having clean air and fishes being spotted once again in the canals of Venice.  I plan to move on with my blogs in my isolation state, exploring this new world from a personal point of view, from looking after my kids at home, my fitness, my spirituality, the political and cultural shift along with many individual issues we are all about to experience arising from this pandemic.

The world is in quarantine, borders have closed, people are locked in, as real heroes try to save our vulnerable, fighting this unseen enemy. This is the time to understand, we as global citizens have more in common that we think. The trillions of dollars we have collectively spent over the last century to build weapons of mass destruction to defend us, are of no use in this war. We are at least 12 months away to create a weapon to fight this, our only weapon is our human nature.

Stay safe, heal, we will get through this, we have to get through this, for our planet and our selves.