So here we are nearly two years into what everyone was hoping was going to be just one year of hardship under the effects of the pandemic, yet we are not much better off than when all this started. Oh sure mortality rates are down, but the pandemic persists. The term new normal implied that there was really no going back to the way things were and in many ways it’s true. We can no longer look at hygiene and public safety the same way, yet somehow we have to move on.
In recent days Singapore issued a statement that said ‘aiming for zero infection was no longer a viable solution’ simply because there were too many variants and vectors for the disease to get in. They proposed treating COVID as an unwelcome house guest staying for the long haul like the seasonal flu and the occasional outbreak of chicken pox. However dispiriting this is, it is a truth the world would be wise to accept.
In the same way schools are having to find new ways to cope with this new normal, but beyond the talked-to-death subject of online classes, there is another aspect of school life that has suffered terribly under the rule of COVID and that’s school life: Everything that isn’t study related from school trips to school festivals has been irrevocably changed and in some ways much worse than classes. In the past two years high school students have been denied the right of passage of traveling abroad with classmates or the camaraderie of the home room class preparing for a school festival. Two entire generations of graduates are now different from their peers in that these two simple activities have been denied to them.
While Delta makes its rounds public gatherings are just not possible without risk of clusters forming and so school games, school trips and school festivals have been put on the butcher’s block. The question becomes, what to do? How do Japanese schools maintain that giddy heir of high school life while trying to adhere to strict social policies?
The answer, at least in the interim, is moving events such as festivals online. Sporting events too can benefit from the strategies of the Olympics and live cast games. Unfortunately school trips cannot benefit from going digital, but saving two out of three school events isn’t bad.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.