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Parents’ pressure group appeals for policy change to allow all schoolchildren to drop masks

Mask protest: Us For Them Bermuda "Worn Under Protest" stickers designed as a protest against mandatory mask wearing for children at school (Photograph supplied)

A pressure group has said the education of pupils of all ages was hampered by mask wearing in class after the Government said primary schoolchildren in the first three years did not have to wear them for lessons.

Us For Them Bermuda, set up after the implementation of Covid-19 public health measures, renewed calls to make the decision on mask wearing for children a parental choice.

A spokeswoman said: “We are pleased to see the smiles of Bermuda’s littlest learners again.

“We had hoped all primary classes would be allowed to unmask in the classroom as was the case the entire 2020-21 school year.

“No explanation of the change in policy for the 2021-22 school year was ever made.”

She was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announced on Friday that mask wearing would only be mandatory for children at Primary 4 level and above while indoors at school.

Mr Rabain said “the critical nature of our younger students learning requiring them to see mouth movement” was recognised.

But the Us for Them spokeswoman said unhindered communication was “vital to the learning experience at any age”.

She added: “Children need to hear the teachers and vice versa. The quality of education suffers from these hindrances to speaking and hearing.

“We see this with almost all adults at press conferences around the world as the masks are removed in order to speak because it is difficult to make yourself understood when speaking for any length of time while wearing a mask.“

Us For Them said it had shown studies and articles that supported their claims to the Government.

The spokeswoman said that the group had asked the education authorities which studies its policies were based on.

She added: “To date, despite requests, Us For Them Bermuda has seen no studies or research on which the school restrictions are based, yet both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education continue to make broad statements that masks are effective without offering any evidence.

“Even if masks in the classroom have an effect on transmission — and on that we would argue the evidence is, at best, inconclusive — their continued use has to also be balanced against the children’s other needs including their education and mental health.

“We have asked what cost-benefit analysis has been done, but again received no reply.“

Us For Them met Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, and health officials earlier this month to discuss their concerns.

The spokeswoman said the group welcomed the opportunity, but that the meeting was brief and failed to tackle the problems.

She added: “We feel our efforts to engage with the Government on the continued restrictions on children have been largely futile and not met with a genuine willingness to engage on the Government’s part.

“Most e-mails expressing the concerns of parents go unanswered and we are still waiting for the formal response to our concerns from the health ministry, which were promised after our February 9 meeting with Ms Wilson.”

The group appealed to Ms Wilson to consider one-way masking — the wearing of high quality close-fitting masks that may offer protection to users even when others are not masked.

But the spokeswoman said: “The minister continued to insist the masking policy is uniform for all.”

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Published February 23, 2022 at 7:51 am (Updated February 23, 2022 at 7:38 am)

Parents’ pressure group appeals for policy change to allow all schoolchildren to drop masks

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