As we draw close to the end of a calendar year with the dawn of November I write these words to welcome back to physical school those students and teachers who have been permitted to return by the Ministry of Education with the lifting of some of the health and safety restrictions on movement and gatherings. We are limping back to normalcy – limping, not running! We have to take it slowly and even though they be furtive and careful steps we are hopefully on our way back to some level of normalcy following the unprecedented and challenging 19 months that we have experienced as a nation and as a world. It has been a period of dislocation, disorientation and disruption. It has been a period of great suffering and challenge on many fronts not least of all due to the pandemic but also due to a number of socio-political and economic factors that have been a cause for great concern.
As a School we have been no less affected by the turbulence faced in education. As the play write Ruwanthi de Chickera said on a webinar a few months ago our education system is broken beyond repair. It has been laid bare and exposed for all its weaknesses and inadequacies but like the Emperor in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen, the harsh truths that have been exposed in all their stark nakedness have still to be adequately realized and accepted by those that can make a change – and change there must be in the post-covid new normal if we are to move forward.
We at S. Thomas’ have decided to be bold in some of our decisions as we plan reopening. So as we welcome our children back to school it will be to a school that is the same in terms of physical infrastructure but it will be a very different school in terms of our methods of teaching and evaluation. It is our hope that if Covid-19 has taught us anything it is that we need to move into the modern world that embraces technology, that inspires creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and innovation, that focuses not just on IQ but also EQ and one in which the teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage” but the “guide by the side.” This would mean that everyone involved – students, teachers, other staff and, importantly, parents – need to buy in and “catch the vision”, so to speak, so that as we go forward we will do so together.
We look forward to having all our children coming back soon. The campus has been like a lifeless wilderness these past months. We long to hear the buzz of conversation, the joy of children’s laughter and to see some “organized chaos” where the children are able to once more enjoy themselves with their friends and classmates as they play and sing and dance or simply sit in small groups during breaks to chat and share their thoughts.
May the campus be a happy place where children are free to be children and where they will learn those lessons that are sometimes far more important than the lessons they need to know to pass exams. May our children bloom and flourish over the coming months and years.