By MARGARETH QAE
FLORENCE YOUNG CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
INTRODUCTION – JAB or NO JAB
Jab for education or no jab for no education. This is the great diaspora of covid 19 that faces our nation, our children, our youth and threatens the very future of our children.
In a few weeks, our schools will either be open or remain shut. This question, of covid 19 enforced JAB or NO JAB, in relation to the education of our teenaged children, aged 12 and above, will be addressed in my paper.
Let me make it clear as a teacher and a parent, and as someone who has not been vaccinated, I feel it is my right as a citizen of this country, to speak out on enforced vaccinations, and to protect the freedoms enshrined in our constitution, that enable and give our people hope, a voice, and the liberties that guarantee our freedom.
The Government of Solomon Islands, by way of Cabinet, approved the mandatory vaccination last Friday, July 30th, 2021. (Minister of Health and Medical Service Dr. Culwick Togamana in his COVID-19 National Address)
WHY THE ‘NO JAB NO SCHOOL’ IMPINGES ON THE FREEDOM OF OUR CHILDREN TO EDUCATION?
God Almighty, in His grand design, blessed our country, with everything we desire, including our FREEDOM.
Our country is a political democracy, and our National Constitution, guards our constitutional freedoms and human rights from being deformed, defamed or de-humanised.
We have a wide range of freedoms, a freedom to choose, a freedom of movement, a freedom to vote, a freedom to speak, a freedom to express ourselves, freedom to decide what is best for one’s interest.
In the case of the Cabinet Decision as announced by the Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana, (Friday, July 31, 2021 Covid-19 National Address), and its relations to Education in Solomon Islands, and its implications on our teenage primary school students, aged 12 and above, I make these following observations.
- Covid-19 is a foreign disease, which was introduced into Solomon Islands. To this day, no-one knows where it came from?
- Covid-19 has several strains including Delta and Omicron, which are yet to be recorded in Solomon Islands.
- Solomon Islands recorded 86 new COVID-19 positive cases, bringing the country’s total number of cases to 8026. (Ministry of Health and Medical Services permanent secretary Pauline McNeil – SolStar News, March 6, 2022).
- Solomon Islands recorded 296 new additional COVID-19 cases in the past 72 hours bringing total case count to 11,470. (Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana in Solomon Star news, April 1);
- 10 cases recorded in Malaita, 3 in Guadalcanal, 29 in Western, 37 in Choiseul, 5 Central Islands, 143 in Makira, 21 in Renbel and 48 in Honiara. Isabel update for the reporting period not yet received while Temotu province still reported zero cases for COVID-19. (Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana in Solomon Star news, April 1);
- in terms of death, following reports from our provinces including the National Referral Hospital, deaths still stand at 133 with no new deaths in the past 72 hours. (Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana in Solomon Star news, April 1);
- Covid-19 assistance has been forthcoming from Great Britain, Australia and China.
Now to any sane person, this would be a frightening scenario. But trying to enforce MANDATORY C-19 VACCINATION is even more frightening, because that action in itself threatens the very fabric of our constitutional freedoms.
It threatens the rights of our children to free and fair education without harassment and discrimination on the grounds of refusing medical treatment due to their beliefs, or exercising their human rights, or their freedom of choice.
The above reports do not detail any child or teenager to have contracted C-19, nor the death of any child from C-19.
OUR CHILDREN, therefore, cannot be denied their UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS to EDUCATION as is enshrined in UNICEF Protocols.
I believe that refusing children a classroom space is an attack on the child’s basic human right. It is an attack on his or her freedom. Denying a child education is not the right thing to do.
It is denying a child of Solomon Islands a healthy, educated and free future. What God has given to us free, we cannot put a price on it at the expense of our children.
In our neighboring Melanesian countries, Papua New Guinea has recorded 43,203 C-19 cases, and 640 deaths. Fiji has 64,417 cases and 834 deaths. (Wikipedia Our World in Data, Worldometer).
Both countries have recently re-opened to international flights and shipping with strict observation of C-19 protocols while our borders remain closed.
In PNG, C-19 vaccination is NOT mandatory. It is voluntary. Schools are open and children are not denied their right to education. The only requirement in PNG schools is to observe C-19 protocols and that is; wash hands with soap; wear face masks; keep distance and no touch (greeting with elbow or fist bump only). (Post-Courier newspaper August 12, 2021).
Their Prime Minister James Marape announced this to their Parliament on August 12, 2021. He said the vaccination is not mandatory or compulsory. In other words, it is voluntary and people, including children, cannot be forced against their will to take it!
I ask: Why is it that so hard to introduce the same in our country, especially in our schools?
On the outbreak of C-19 worldwide, the Solomon Islands National Democratic Institute (NDI) conducted a national survey in April–May 2021, to understand the main concerns of Solomon Islanders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including their awareness of public policies and attitudes toward vaccines.
The Solomon Islands cabinet has set a national vaccination target of 80 percent coverage by November 2021, and has recently approved mandatory vaccination for all public servants, state-owned enterprise workers, and private employees undertaking frontline work. (Minister of Health and Medical Service Dr Culwick Togamana in his COVID-19 National Address)
Student rights are those rights, such as civil, constitutional, contractual and consumer rights, which regulate student rights and education is every child’s right which cannot be taken away or suppressed by the Government.
Education must be available to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity and socio- economic background. In particular, basic education must be accessible to and be accessed by all school age children in Solomon Islands.
Students’ education right in state of public emergency as we know Education is a human right and should be guaranteed and protected for all people, at all times.
However, in emergencies states often encounter difficulties in guaranteeing and protecting people’s human rights particularly the rights of members of already marginalised groups, such as persons with disabilities.
This may be due to loss of power and the lawlessness that ensues, the destruction of infrastructure or because of the redirection of resources. In any case, emergencies lead to an increased likelihood that the right to education will be violated.
It is therefore important that any emergency law policy and the community act to minimise and ameliorate the harmful effects of emergency situations.
However, in the case of this covid19 vaccine mandate for students on no jab no school, this mandatory policy discriminate against the right for students’ education.
In emergencies, human rights law applies in all contexts; people do not lose their human rights because of conflict, famine or natural disasters in humanitarian law, SI government refugee law and criminal law.
As I have knowledge that a state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to be able to put through policies that it would normally not be permitted to do, for the safety and protection of its citizens.
A government can declare such a state during a natural disaster, civil unrest, armed conflict, medical pandemic or epidemic or other biosecurity risk.
It’s important that parents agree to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 if they’re over 12 years old and eligible. But for those who are too young to receive the vaccination, it’s important that they’re surrounded by vaccinated people, especially in schools.
While the unvaccinated students are not allowed to attend the classes because of this covid-19 mandated policy applied to them, in this case their right to education is abused, even though state of emergency is meant for safety and protection of its citizens.
If the unvaccinated students believed getting vaccinated against COVID-19 cannot lower their risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, vaccines cannot also help prevent serious illness and death and all steps have been taken to ensure that vaccines are not safe and effective for them people ages 5 years and older.
It is their right to make up their choice of being unvaccinated because of their beliefs or experiences during the community transmission outbreak, or their religious belief.
I for one will respect their decisions. To stop them from their rights for education is something that against their human rights.
It will be a relief and a wise decision if unvaccinated students are allowed to access their classes through preventive measures include physical or social distancing, quarantining, ventilation of indoor spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, hand washing, and keeping unwashed hands away from the face.
Use of face masks or coverings should be recommended for them in public settings to minimise the risk of transmission rather than amended covid19 vaccine mandate for them.
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Psalm 127:3 (NIV).
The word “heritage” comes from the root meaning “to get or inherit.”
It is an honor and responsibility to be entrusted with a little one from God. We stand beside him to shepherd their growth and development, to advocate for them, and provide for their needs while they’re in our care.
“All students shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of our students.”
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”
Even though we bore them, we do not own them, they belong to our heavenly Father. So let us protect the unvaccinated students from their rights and freedoms and allow students to make use of their educational investment.
God bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.