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Monday, October 19, 2020

Mandy Rhodes: Nobody needed a rocket science degree to see student return could go wrong

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Five years ago, when our son left to go to university in Glasgow, we were all happy to see each other. The stresses and strains of exams, work, love life and hormones – hers and mine, proved to be tests, so it was time for her to leave.

When we left him at the Murano Student Village with the full knowledge that this was known as the party hall – he had done some research on this, at least – we didn’t expect him to live the life of a monk. And he didn’t.

A little surprised at the quality of the room that would become his home for next year, we said goodbye before quickly reaching for the sanitized wipes, a little scared of what we might collect.

These student residences are generally not health places and this is before introducing young people who have never lived outside the home.

The idea that they would offer a place of refuge, not to mention sanitation, during a global pandemic to thousands of untested teenagers, freed from the constraints of parental disapproval and having traveled from all over the country, no matter overseas, it was always going to be a pie in the sky. So why were we so unprepared?

The question of continuing education has become totemic for the government in these times. It is a mantra that has subscribed to the chaos around the opening of schools, which informed the government’s plans for economic recovery and its shortcomings almost led to the departure of the Deputy Prime Minister.

And while no one wants a generation marked by lack of access to intellectual property that will expand their brains and carry them through and out of these terrible times, nor does it take a genius to understand the consequences of opening universities as if business was like. usual. This was the largest movement of people in the whole country since the start of the blockade. The wholesale displacement of tens of thousands of party-loving, hormone-drenched teens who already suffered severely during the exam debacle and felt the full force of the first restrictions on their freedom.

And having been continually told that they are not at risk of this virus, they left the house, with a rite of passage that brought them directly en bloc. And with the virus spreading like wildfire, they are confined to corridors, banned from going out, and literally held hostage by this government’s approach to the pandemic.

The Prime Minister knows that residential institutions are fertile ground for contagion. So, it seems inconceivable that, given all the catastrophic lessons of nursing homes, students from all over the country have poured into the halls without testing or needing quarantine. My office is located under a student residence, mainly occupied by mature students from abroad. I saw them arrive before retiring to their rooms for two weeks to isolate themselves.

Why hasn’t the same regime been applied to domestic students? Quarantine, test, bubble creation? You’ve had a captive audience, a group of educated young people who want to know each other. Surely it wasn’t rocket science that the government needed to apply only a small degree of common sense to our universities?


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