Dan Boyle: We Don’t Need No Education?


From top: Taoiseach, Micheál Martin flanked by Minister for Education, Norma Foley (left) and Minister of State Josepha Madigan (right) launching the Roadmap for Reopening Schools; Dan Boyle

We’re being told that over recent weeks that Ireland has the fourth fastest rising percentage in Europe in new developing COVID cases. On first exposure this appears a worrying statistic but ultimately it is a pretty meaningless one.

As a comparison between countries, when countries are operating from different bases, it does not tell us a whole lot.

The seven day and fourteen day averages are more telling. From these we can see that things are going in a wrong direction and that we do need to act differently.

The figures remain far short of the peaks we had seen in April/May, but who of us wants to go back there?

What seems to fraying is the idea of an us. For this political responsibility has to be accepted.

We are now eight months into a global health crisis. We know a lot more about this virus than we did, though not yet nearly enough. The governments of many countries have adopted different strategies, some more successful than others.

Some of the more successful governments, such as New Zealand, have had certain geographic advantages. Failures have occurred, and they have been many, in many countries.

In Ireland we have fought hard but find ourselves at the wrong end of the World table with statistics such as COVID deaths per million population.

These failures, while above the World average, have not been of Trumpian proportions. But failures there have been.

It may be that some time will pass before we learn the extent of these failures. How we have handled nursing homes reflects badly on us. The dangers that existed were not responded to quickly enough. The resources that were needed were not provided sufficiently or in time.

We are in danger of repeating these mistakes with Direct Provision centres. The level of risk we are exposing those in these centres, in a type of provision that should not exist, is unacceptable.

And then we have the meat factories, which seem to be evolving into something of a metaphor for a more meek, bleaker Ireland. Poorly paid workers with even worse working conditions, exposed to maximum risk so that the rest of us have cheaper food.

Post COVID Ireland has to be about more than the elimination of the virus. It has to also be about the elimination of the social and economic viruses these practices represent.

Other problems have arisen because of our reactive response to this virus. Those with other health conditions have been made wait, creating a back log to be cleared that may take a considerable time, causing even greater stress to those suffering.

It is in this context that government is so anxious to see schools re-opening, that some may see as being in haste while not being properly thought out.

There is valid reason in seeking a resumption of education. Learning is an essential and overriding purpose of schools. So is socialisation.

It could be the cruelest irony of all that while for children the health impacts of COVID may be marginal, the mental health effects could be devastating.

I see it with my granddaughter. She hungers for other kids to interact with. The longer we avoid making that happen the harder it will be to catch up.

It won’t be easy. Some openings will be postponed. Some will open then close in response to local outbreaks. It will be infuriating. Despite this it is something that needs to happen. Something we need to make happen.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


Earlier: “Most Of Our Homes Are Not Controlled Environments But Schools Are”

8 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: We Don’t Need No Education?

  1. dan

    “These failures, while above the World average, have not been of Trumpian proportions. But failures there have been.”

    USA: 582 deaths per million
    Ireland: 365 deaths per million

    Not much difference there Dan.

  2. dan

    “Other problems have arisen because of our reactive response to this virus.”

    Our response?
    Don’t you mean governments response?
    Like you green PArty, now non existent

  3. Bruncvik

    Good article, as usual. We’re struggling to keep our kids in the creche, despite struggling with the cost, because they need social interaction with their peers. If they were a few years older, we would also prefer to send them to school.

    Just one comment, to this: “Some of the more successful governments, such as New Zealand, have had certain geographic advantages.”

    Attributing the success to NZ to their geographical isolation has become a misleading meme at this point. If you look at Central European countries, like Slovakia, Hungary or Austria (the last being the epicenter of the initial Covid spread across Europe), they all border five or six countries. And yet, they did a better job with Covid than Ireland. I’m no expert, but my uneducated guess is that they didn’t put value on human life: they didn’t compromise between an acceptable level of sick and the economy. Instead, they proactively shut everything down (Slovakia, for example, closed schools with less than 10 total cases in the country), and got the virus under control much more effectively. Presently, even though they don’t have such “award winning” apps like the Irish Covid tracker, they are in position to quickly identify potential outbreaks and enforce isolation. In my opinion, the article is right in criticizing the Irish government for being reactive.

    So here’s my unpopular (and still uneducated) opinion is that the government should be much more forceful: order, not advise, and enforce their orders.

    1. SOQ

      SARS-Cov-2 is a virus which is sweeping the world because that is what viruses do- it cannot be stopped, only slowed- and at what cost?

      And as for NZ- they still don’t know where the infection which caused the current cluster came from. They have ruled out frozen food items or freight, asymptomatic transmissions because they had 102 days without any cases- and infection from returners because they were all quarantined.

      So how?

      1. f_lawless

        Interesting: research from Feb 2018. A possible explanation?

        “An astonishing number of viruses are circulating around the Earth’s atmosphere — and falling from it — according to new research from scientists in Canada, Spain and the U.S…

        ..”Every day, more than 800 million viruses are deposited per square metre above the planetary boundary layer — that’s 25 viruses for each person in Canada,” said University of British Columbia virologist Curtis Suttle,..

        ..”This preponderance of long-residence viruses travelling the atmosphere likely explains why — it’s quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another.”

  4. Noel

    The Donnelly effect coming through on all interested parties. The Greens. History repeating itself and all that!

  5. f_lawless

    “We’re being told that over recent weeks that Ireland has the fourth fastest rising percentage in Europe in new developing COVID cases”

    Is that really true or do you mean test cases that are returning positive results? ‘COVID-19’ is the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 and exhibited through symptoms such as fever, sore throat, difficulty breathing, etc.The tests used aren’t specific enough to diagnose an active infection and so a positive test case could be for a range of reasons. From what I’ve read, the majority of positive cases recently are not showing symptoms of disease and so shouldn’t be described as “COVID cases”. It’s important not to fudge the distinction now more so than ever.

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