Life and learning

Horace Camp offers his thoughts on two hot topics – the future of our education system and the efficacy of our Covid strategy

JUST as we were getting comfortable with #GuernseyTogether and once again are pulling together as a community, a monster is waiting in the bushes ready to pull us down once again into a maelstrom of violent, divisive turmoil.

Yes, the education debate is back.

Just as Donald Trump was a parody of a US president at the same time as being the US president, the education debate is a parody of an education debate worthy of the pen of Jonathan Swift (you know, the Gulliver’s Travels bloke). In fact, there are enormous similarities between his actual parody of political behaviour and our own version of it.

The two warring empires in his great work were divided by the boiled egg controversy. One insisted eggs should be broken at the big end and the other favoured the little end. Several wars were fought and emperors were toppled or killed in the process. Thank the Lord that we have only had emperors toppled so far in the course of the various rebellions.

On the face of it the Big Endians, or as they call themselves The Two Schoolers, were soundly defeated at the last general election and their emperor sent running from the field. At the time it appeared that the Little Enders, who call themselves The Anything But Two Schoolers, had at last established how our eggs would be broken in future.

Little did we know that the few Big Endians who survived the battle would be joined by a few new closet BE deputies and would unite under a new leader to start yet another rebellion with no chance of victory but with every chance of spreading division and conflict at a time when we all need to pull together to keep our island afloat.

It makes perfect sense to me that the victors who fought under the Little Endian banner will not be constrained by Big Endian policies or resolutions. Now is not the time for Deputy Roffey to recover former deputy Fallaize’s crown from the mud of the battlefield and reopen all the wounds that years of fighting have already caused.

Let this Covid Assembly truly be the Guernsey Together Assembly. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder and get the big things done in this term that will keep us in work and with food on our tables. I would suggest that focusing on revising our Education Law will make not one jot of a difference.

I have a second topic this week and that is how much we value a life.

The second wave has hit Jersey hard, with more than 30 of our fellow Channel Islanders having their lives cut short by Covid.

At the time of writing this, we have managed not to lose anyone. So far it would appear that we have been more successful in keeping our people alive during this second wave.

And even if, God forbid, that should change we have at least granted a few more months of life to any potential victims. But all this has not been achieved without a great deal of sacrifice by our community.

I do wonder, as I hear arguments that Jersey has approached the crisis from a better direction and that the CCA here has been too heavy-handed, if some of us put very little value on the lives of others.

I’m certain that the rather disturbing argument that the Covid victims were old and would die soon anyway would not be applied in other circumstances. What if the fire brigade had a policy that no firefighter should enter a burning building to rescue an octogenarian with existing health issues? Or lifeboat crews were categorically banned from setting out in stormy weather to rescue a terminally ill sailor on a bucket list adventure?

Just what are you willing to give up to, say, give someone’s favourite aunt another month of life? Is there a value threshold where a life is involved? I do feel for the decision-makers who are carrying a heavy burden at this time. No matter what decision they take, there will be collateral damage. Financial problems, mental health issues, lost schooling, premature deaths from other causes and many, many more. But at least here in Guernsey our decision-makers can look at second-wave deaths and consider they have undoubtedly preserved some lives, even if for only a relatively short period of time. And unlike Jersey, where the politicians come under continual and aggressive scrutiny, we are accepting that, though the CCA members are not perfect, we stand by them through these difficult days.

Perhaps we were lucky to have adopted Dr Brink as the figurehead of our Covid response and she has proven to be worthy of our trust. I sometimes pick up a vibe that the good doctor is deified too much and that it is a team effort. Of course that is true, but just as Winston won the Second World War (he didn’t – it was a big team effort) Britain needed a Winston, just as we need a Brink.

I know it’s hard being locked up. I know it’s tough not to be able to order a Chinese takeaway. I know it’s frustrating not to be able to fly somewhere exotic at a whim. I know it’s tough watching your business fail, or laying off trusted and valued employees. I know it’s hard when you can’t work the hours needed to put food on your table.

But I also suspect if it was a choice between a Chinese or helping a nice old lady to live a few months longer and be able to hold her first great-grandchild, you would willingly make do with beans on toast.

Education reform and Covid this week. Seemingly unconnected but in fact both share a common theme, which is the benefit to us all of standing together as a community to get things done. Big Endians work with the Little Endians and Covid lockdown deniers look at those death statistics and consider that our CCA might be getting it right after all.

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