Pubs can breathe a sigh of relief. But what about the children?

Restaurant and cafe owners and employees can now breathe a sigh of relief – customers can be serviced on the outdoor terraces, which will increase sales. That's good, because people need a job.
10.05.2021. MKMāris Krautmanis
 
©Dmitrijs SUĻŽICS, F64 Photo Agency

The opening of the outdoor terraces is subject to strict restrictions - a furious and strict supervisor must make sure that there is order, at 9 pm the sales must stop. Entrepreneurs who have built tents find that it was not worth it because tents are not allowed. Until Thursday afternoon, it was not clear to anyone what is and isn't allowed, because the government was dawdling - deliberating, debating and discussing, until they finally figured out what the rules would be.

It is probably the case that the wishes of the political elite have coincided with the interests of pub owners and therefore such an understanding was possible. There will soon be a world championship in hockey, and the political elite loves hockey. They also want to eat, drink and cheer on their team, therefore the Covid restrictions are lightened.

However, there are concerns about other areas and sectors of life that are not as close to them. The government should think the most about children - not just their own, but children in general. The shock the education system has experienced during the pandemic promises to be lasting.

Latvian children have not been lucky - they have been born in a country whose parliament is weak, and the government is not able to keep up with the challenges brought on by Covid.

Vaccination rates are still very slow, and although there are lively official reports of new record numbers of people vaccinated, even these figures are not enough to vaccinate 70 percent of the population by September.

However, for children and teens, this time is very traumatic - distance learning is a good thing, but it cannot replace the need to socialize, to meet peers. The educational process on the computer is not the same as in life. Learning at home is different in each family - there are some where everything is great - the child has their own computer, their own room and parents who carefully look after and help in their studies. But there are families where the child is one of many, where many live in the same room, while parents are busy with working hard or enjoying a strong drink. Such a child could study at school, but it is not possible at home. Presumably, there are children who have not only learned nothing new in the last year but have also forgotten what they knew before. The gap in access to education existed before Covid but has become much more dramatic during Covid: a lack of education also means being less competitive in the labor market, which in turn means a greater gap in social inequality.

During Covid, the acquisition of knowledge lags behind what it would be under normal conditions. If the whole world lagged behind in the same way, it would not be the worst thing, but there are fears that Latvian children will be lagging behind other European and Baltic neighbors more and more, because in Lithuania and Estonia the fight against Covid is much more successful than in our country. For the future, this means that our country's competitiveness threatens to be weaker than even its immediate neighbors.

The Ministry of Health is doing the best it can - it is considering in which municipalities the epidemiological situation is not that bad, and there students allowed to attend school in person, but this is just putting patches on the problem - half-measures. As Covid is here to stay for a long time, appropriate long-term solutions would also be needed: a predictive system to maximize opportunities for children to learn in person. Although education and science have a quite interesting minister, surely there must be some people in the ministry's human resources who might be able to undertake developing such a solution?

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