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How much can we ask from parents of young children?

I first wrote young parents, but I am not sure I am still qualifying. This sounds more inclusive.

I am the proud father of three children, aged 12, 10 and 7. The oldest is fully vaccinated against covid19. He is supposedly the least susceptible member of the family to get severe symptoms, which is probably the reason he has been lying in bed with a good old nasty flu for the last three days. Karma is a b*$#%!

My wife and I are fully vaccinated too. However, my two youngest children are too young to get the vaccine. Last Tuesday afternoon I received a notification that my 7 years old will have to stay in quarantine until she can produce a negative result from the GGD. One kid from her group at BSO, with whom she played the day before, had just been tested positive. It took us hours to get an appointment at the overwhelmed local GGD centre and another ~20h to have the results. This is still impressively fast given the pressure the epidemic has put on public health. Unfortunately for me, the timing was bad as I was expected to teach in person on Wednesday, a course that heavily relies on hands-on practicals and could not be offered online within a 12h notice. I was lucky enough to find someone to replace me, but it caused me stress and effort to transfer the course material and as much information as possible to my guardian angel!

Living on the edge

The rise of corona infections and the decisions made by the government to reinforce the sanitary measures, primarily aiming at protecting the most vulnerable while keeping the society open, put us, parents of young children, in a very difficult situation. Over the last weeks, I have received almost daily notifications that one of my children was in close contact with someone who got tested positive for covid19 (either at school, at afterschool daycare or at sport). This puts an unbearable burden on parents of young children who must spend hours and redouble efforts to adapt to ever-changing agendas, schedule PCR testing at the GGD and use twice as much imagination to find alternative care for their quarantined children. The struggle is real and international lecturers are facing an even greater challenge because they typically cannot rely on family for last-minute help.

Our young children will contract covid19, no matter how often they wash hands or sneeze into their elbow. Given the contagiousness of the delta variant and the current pace of spreading, the question becomes “when?”. Will that be during winter holidays? Or maybe for Sinterklaas? Parents of young children have this huge sword of Damocles over their heads, which causes a lot of stress. Among colleagues, many complain that the shortage of personnel in creche/daycare leads to groups being closed one day a week, and the situation will only get worse if the personnel get sick.

Not all heroes wear capes

We, members of the TAUU council, would like to express our recognition to all teachers that are facing the same struggle and thank them for keeping up with the good work despite the difficulties. This problem must be acknowledged and we hope we can get institutional support in the coming months. If you have any suggestions on how this support could become a reality, please let us know in the comments and we will cascade them up to the deans of faculties and the directors of graduate schools.

Adrien Melquiond
16 November 2021

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