Children are a special group of Aucklanders, who have given us so much. Their freedom relies on grown-ups to get the vaccine for them – so let’s make sure we do, writes Peter O’Connor
Comment: Friday marked the last day of term three for children and teachers in Auckland. A term where, once again, teachers were thrown into the uncertainty of online classes and where most responded magnificently, as they always do in a crisis.
However, it is timely to acknowledge a different significant part of the team of 1.6 million Aucklanders who have also been a vital part of the strategy to deal with Covid. And that is, the hundreds of thousands of primary school and early childhood education children who are now heading into their holidays with no real sense of when they will be back at their physical school.
In research carried out in South Auckland schools after the August 2020 lockdown, by the University of Auckland’s Centre for Arts and Social Transformation, we discovered the biggest fear many children had was that their parents and grandparents were going to die from Covid.
They knew that we shut the city down and went into our hermit kingdom houses so that people didn’t needlessly die. So when politicians argue about when to reopen and want to make a public health response a political toy, it’s perhaps worth remembering that these younger members of our team understand why they are giving up so much. The wisdom of young people can often cut through the cluttered nonsense of adults.
This latest lockdown has been tough on children. They have heard on the radio and TV all the time how deadly Delta is. They worry in particular about their sick nannies and pops. They see the strain on their parents’ faces, they hear them argue about money. They wonder when they might see their friends, their cousins, when they might play and laugh with other children.
For many of our young Aucklanders, closing school has meant breakfast and lunch isn’t guaranteed. For others living cramped in garages or houses too small, this lockdown is truly a hard one. School is often a refuge from the overcrowding, or the violence. It can be the only place where children feel safe.
In a lockdown with seemingly no end in sight many of our little ones become anxious like their parents. They worry about them, their whānau and their friends.
In thanking Auckland’s children for their contributions and sacrifices over this lockdown I am also deeply aware of how much joy and love they give us grown-ups. Our grandchildren are part of our bubble and for that I am so immensely grateful. It means we can help our daughter as our son-in-law works. It is their cuddles, their love and the laughter we share that has sustained some sense of normality for us in these past weeks. I ache for those grandparents who rely on daily zooms to maintain that contact while they watch them grow.
We need to reopen our workplaces but I’m also hoping children can soon get back to their work. For the main business of childhood is to play, discover, love and laugh with their wider whanau and mates. Here in Auckland the summer seems so tantalising close. I can’t wait for our beaches and parks and streets to be filled again with the joyful sound of children. We owe it to them, for all they have given, to go the distance now.
To really thank them for all they are doing, make sure everyone you know is vaccinated. We owe this special group of Aucklanders. Because they are too little to do it for themselves, they are relying on us grown-ups getting the vaccine for them. So let’s all make sure we do.