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Collaboration key to roadmap out of lockdown

By 'Alapasita Teu October 29, 2021

There’s a wonderful saying on the sports field, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” New Zealand’s team of 5 million, once the embodiment of this saying, appears to be slowly fragmenting. The Education Minister’s recent announcement that secondary schools will reopen in Level 3 areas has received mixed responses from educators, parents, communities, and school kids. 

Educators have expressed concern and disbelief that so little notice was given before the announcement. Throw in the lack of clarity around vaccination mandates and their implications for teachers; it is no surprise that our education sector is disappointed in policymakers and the Government. 

With schools reopening despite apprehensions around safety from educators, the Government must put as much effort into reopening as they did into elimination.

While the Government is quick to make announcements, they seem to be wildly out of touch with the reality of the situation on the ground. Already struggling with declining literacy levels, worsening truancy figures, staff shortages, limited resources, and a tired workforce, the last thing the system needs is an ambiguous roadmap out of lockdown.

Government decisions that continue to place an overstretched system, educators, and students in a vulnerable position in its management of COVID-19 are alarming. The shift in the public mood towards government decisions highlights a deeper problem—the lack of regard for local contexts, local solutions, and the local community.

Central government continues to roll out horrible policy mismatches. The bureaucrats are blissfully ignorant of the interests and concerns of citizens, constituents, and the communities they are meant to serve. 

The saying “locals know best” applies directly to this case.  Local communities, schools, and educators know their context. They know the specific needs of their learners. They know what resources are necessary to create an environment that is safe and comfortable for all. There is a missed opportunity here for central government to work collaboratively and creatively with communities, schools, families, and educators. 

Against the backdrop of a pandemic, solutions must ensure the learning and education of our tamariki (children) and rangatahi (youth) remains a priority.

With schools reopening despite apprehensions around safety from educators, the Government must put as much effort into reopening as they did into elimination. The government has to provide detailed guidance on public health measures, including risk assessment, rapid testing, mask use, and extra resourcing to ensure a safe learning environment. They also need to investigate improving ventilation systems, rather than simply suggesting that classes be held outside. 

Feedback loops have to be created to allow for parents, families, and educators to share their concerns and suggestions around improving schools’ reopening plans. In planning and building post-lockdown roadmaps and strategies, we need Government mandates to engage with reality, to support and protect taonga like our teachers, students, and the education sector.

Bureaucrats and the Government need to explore pathways that include voices at the coalface, in the local context, and local communities to produce mana-enhancing policies. Against the backdrop of a pandemic, solutions must ensure the learning and education of our tamariki (children) and rangatahi (youth) remains a priority. Our schools must remain a place for hope, possibilities, and dreams to come alive irrespective of alert levels and lockdowns.

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