With the UK gov facing calls to begin mandating face coverings in crowded public spaces as cases of Covid continue to rise, Gef has spoken to three school aged children about how they and their mates are viewing the island’s Covid situation.
We spoke to Penny who goes to Ashley Hill, Kimberly who goes to Scoiil Vallajeelt and Spencer who goes to Ballakermeen.
As someone who is clearly an independent child with her own views on the world, Penny said she began wearing a face mask to school a few weeks ago, a decision she said she took on her own.
She said: ‘I wanted to stay safe so wore my mask to school. I was the only one in my class who wore one but none of my friends or my teacher said anything about it. But my friends started asking me why and then they realised they wanted to stay safe too and to protect their families. My friend has a vulnerable brother and another has a baby sister so they don’t want to catch it and pass it in. There are now five of us that wear masks, we call it the Covid Club.’
Much has also been made of the time children spent at home due to the pandemic, learning under the eye of teachers mum and dad. Penny said that she didn’t like working at home as she missed hanging out with her friends in person. She added that she liked being back in school so she could ‘see and play with my friends’.
Penny also explained that she is going on holiday with her family soon and would wear a mask there too just ‘not in the swimming pool or restaurants’. Asked whether she’d get a vaccine jab if they were offered to children under 12, Penny just told us ‘guess so’. And clearly a fan of the Hello Little People music video that was shown in schools, Penny said her advice for people was to be ‘be safe, be smart, be kind, make up your own mind’.
Another girl who told us that she wears her mask when at school is Kimberly who said she doesn’t wear it when in small groups or outside but does during wet play ‘because everyone is huddled round in the hall’. She added that she’d also wear it for assemblies and her friends said they would as well. Kimberly said some people wear masks at her school when in groups or when queuing for lunch and some staff, including teachers do, but not all of them. And that at the time of speaking to Gef, she only knew of one student being off school because of Covid.
Asked if she would take a vaccine if offered one, Kimberly said: ‘I don’t see the point of it.’ She added that this is because she has already had Covid and ‘you can travel anyway, the only point of getting it is to travel, you can literally do everything else without it’.
Kimberly said she wasn’t bothered about getting a jab to protect her from the virus, her biggest concern was being able to travel freely. And while it is a subject that dominated many conversations in the last few months, Kimberly said it hasn’t really been discussed in school or between her friends but they did discuss Covid. She added that most of what she has learnt about the jab has come from her family.
While both of the students we’ve spoken to so far have been in primary school, Spencer goes to Ballakermeen which this week asked students in Years 9 and 10 to work from home for part of the week due to the pressures on staffing numbers. These pressures were not solely down to Covid, they were also due to other illnesses.
He told Gef that masks or coverings are ‘expected’ at school, but they aren’t compulsory. He explained: ‘In the email and announcement that we were given, it was said that they are expected and no longer just recommended.’ However he said despite this not a lot of students at Balla were wearing masks on a daily basis.
Spencer added: ‘Pretty much all of the teachers have them on, even when they’re teaching. Some of them have the black ones that we’d wear and some just wear the blue medical ones.’
However while the school is pushing on mask wearing, Spencer said that there had been nothing said about vaccines being available his age group or saying whether or not they should have it. Asked if he’d get it, he said: ‘I don’t need it. I’ve already had Covid but doctors aren’t fully confident of it [the vaccine], it’s not been fully tested yet and there are accounts of it harming kids. All of my mates have had it, pretty much all of them and had no side effects but I’ve not had a problem with it [Covid] so I don’t see why I need it. It’s different with the flu because you can get it really bad.’
He added: ‘I think Covid is more of a threat to the older generation than the younger because I know when I had it and when my mates had it they got it like I did, I was ill with a bit of a snotty nose and a cough for the first three days and then I was just in isolation. I lost both my smell and taste but it’s not too bad.’
Spencer said that he still hasn’t regained all of his sense of taste and smell which he said is ‘a bit weird but not too bad’. However while he wasn’t too concerned about himself getting ill, he was concerned about more vulnerable people being ill.
Spencer said that once more testing is done on the vaccine, he would probably have it but he isn’t keen on it just yet.
He also said that his school was meant to have the flu vaccine spray but that had been delayed. The DESC has told Gef previously that this is due to school absences and it would be picking up that rollout after half-term.
With Covid circulating in schools, Spencer said he knew of students and teachers being off with the virus but more recently it seemed to be more staff than pupils. However he said this hadn’t changed his opinion on wearing masks in schools and it wasn’t talked about much amongst his mates aside from chatter about who has Covid and being off school.