At a time when the rest of the region and the whole-wide-world are discussing issues like ‘Jobs or Jabs’ and wondering whether it’s true that the Omicron variant might be the beginning or the end of the COVID pandemic and related daily nightmares, students and teachers at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) on Sunday showed what researchers meant when they recently advised that Saint Lucia needs to employ and deploy non-government and non-traditional messengers and messaging to get the vaccination message across to The Unvaccinated.
On January 23, as the nation observed another annual festival celebrating the lives of the island’s two Nobel Laureates, the SALCC Creative and Performing Arts division hosted Pandemic Diaries, an online production about students coming to grips and coping with the arrival of the virus in 2020 and the effects it had on their studies, lives — and relationships.
It was a story well-told and the presentation was technically good, the actors did their best and everyone watching would have found something to enjoy while learning about how the invisible virus can wreck lives and alter friendships in so many ways and places.
Not someone who often takes time off to ‘watch a movie’, I did promise myself to ensure I viewed the advertised production, aired online and on mainstream TV.
With pen and paper in hand — as per usual – I noted my approvals and criticisms, sharing some of the latter with a friend kind enough to have ensured I did in fact watch ‘the show’.
I have my own take on the technical quality and production, but was also very interested in continuity of the play as an ongoing series.
For example, each of the four main players has an extended story — especially Breanna’s confusing relationship that’s a whole story by itself: like, her dreaming she was pregnant and being afraid to take either a Pregnancy or COVID test because of fear of positive results from both; and her further horrors wondering, if she’s pregnant, which vaccine is the best for mothers-to-be.
Or, the little boy who was so affectionately hugged by his mum (or sister) eventually ending-up being the first child to test COVID-positive because protocols were ignored at home.
Or, the young man whose joys were dashed after his parents tested negative in the USA and heading home, only ending-up unable because their PCR tests proved COVID-positive and they just couldn’t fly.
Of course, I don’t hold copyright on ideas I freely share (in this case), so it’s fine if the writers and producers care to adapt/adopt anything I’ve offered here from my usually-fertile imagination.
Indeed, I have enough ideas to offer for a series that would outlast Omicron – and COVID-19 – but the point I’m making here now, is that the production was not just a good effort but one that deserves both support and continuity.
That said, I also think the effort by the SALCC students shows just how much can be done if and when people decide to help each other better understand things that confuse us all.
They could have done like most others and just left it all to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the National COVID Management Center (NCMC) – or the press – but they decided to bring the issues to the table and step-up to the plate.
Not only should the whole SALCC team be supported, but there’s also much here for the Education Ministry to learn too about the roles students can play in the search for solutions to the problems affecting them at school.
Like the rest of the society, the ministry and health officials, doctors and nurses, teachers and parents do all the thinking and planning and execute plans, complaining and apologizing between them, while (clearly apparently) totally ignoring the voices of students at all levels.
We hear the National Youth Council (NYC) and the National Students Council (NSC) from time to time (especially when pressed by the press), but how much are they being listened to or invited to participate in the discussions about how best to keep students safe at school – and/or while studying at home?
Now that more children and students worldwide are being affected in the Omicron era, who’s talking here about the need for Saint Lucia to get up-to-scratch regarding vaccination of students and children?
Teachers (including principals) and the Education Ministry are at odds over (some) teachers’ claims they are catching COVID from students, while many parents (and mostly working ones) are more concerned about whether adequate protective measures have been taken at the particular schools attended by their children.
But in all of this, I’m not hearing the students’ voice(s) – except what I saw and heard loudly on NTN and Calabash TV on Sunday afternoon, which was very, very refreshing.
In the UK, the government has actually moved — since last year with winter approaching — to actually (albeit quietly) make vaccines available to ‘under-aged’ students who wish to take the jab, with or without their parents’ permission; but we seem to be awaiting the actual detection of Omicron and a cluster of child victims of our decisions or official indecision.
In the USA as well, children are contracting COVID like never before, forcing the federal government and health regulators to press the pharmaceutical companies to start another medical rate race, this time producing vaccines specially for children.
I was heartened, however, that the SALCC’s creative arts fraternity chose to use Nobel Laureates Day to present their noble ideas about the need for the entire society to understand, appreciate and get in on the act of each person, every citizen, actually doing something – at home and work, school and play – to contribute to the fight against the continuing spread of the worst of the COVID-19 variants to date (in terms of transmissibility rates and con sequential costs).