*(Photo: Stephanie Eid)
Primary school teachers are desperate to be sent home despite official COVID-19 health advice recommending that schools remain open.
In the meantime, they’re crying out for better protection as other self-isolation measures ramp up across the country.
One by one, states are taking drastic measures to implement social distancing, including telling parents to keep their kids home from school unless “absolutely necessary”.
But while institutions lock their doors, *Anna, a Sydney primary school teacher, is anxious for the health of her students and colleagues.
“Coming to school hasn’t been enjoyable, to say the least. And I love my job,” she explains.
“But I can’t help but worry every time I hear a child cough or sneeze.”
*Anna says social distancing measures are difficult, if not impossible, in an educational environment for young children.
“It doesn’t matter what grade, they all seem to tackle one another, hug and play.
“Even just in normal day-to-day guided sessions with your students, you can’t physically have each child 1.5 metres away from one another because of the size of the room.”
She fears what widespread infection inside her school could mean for her colleagues. Some of them are elderly, pregnant or have family members who are at risk of serious health complications from contracting the virus.
“I know I would probably get through it fine but there are staff inside the school who are more at risk – or even a child [could] spread it to someone in their family too.”
*Anna says “unrealistic” expectations that classes will continue as normal are contributing to stress, as only 25 to 50 per cent of students attended class last week.
Earlier this week, the NSW Teachers Federation issued a statement confirming these concerns are widespread.
“We are told that social distancing protocols should be observed in all other places not affected by the shutdown. The social distancing protocol of 4m2 per person is impossible to implement in classrooms, corridors and most school playgrounds.”
“We are told there is concern about kids infecting grandparents but not teachers, many of whom are also grandparents?
“We are told there is concern for vulnerable, high risk groups but not teachers in this category.”
The NSW Teachers Federation was contacted for comment, but declined. However, in a media conference on Sunday night, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison was adamant that schools remain open.
“When you take children out of schools and put them back in the broader community, the ability for them to potentially engage with others, increases that risk,” he said.
“The other issue is the disruption… that can have and [it can] put at great risk the availability of critical workers such as nurses and doctors and others who are essential in the community – because they would have to remain home and look after their children.”
While teachers’ representative groups and Governments meet to resolve the best course of action going forward, the impacts of the novel Coronavirus both mentally and physically are expected to take a continual toll on many Australians.
The latest health information on COVID-19 can be found on the Department of Health website.
— Renae Barber @renaessance_
*Names have been changed at the request of the interviewee.