Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Social Responsibility

In my line of work, it is often that I encounter children who fall sick. Some more often than others. It is also once too often I come across parents who have insisted that their children be allowed to attend school even when they were sick. This is an area that really needs to be looked into. Why HFMD and SARS became an epidemic here is because some people do not realize that to prevent an epidemic... to keep the nation clean and healthy, is a social responsibility.
Maybe this is personal or perhaps it may already be constant grouses amongst parents, but hardly spoken out loud. Well, I am determined to share this anyhow as this is my responsibility as an educator and definitely my responsibility as a parent.

Case 1

In one centre, teachers are extremely vigilant with temperature checks and children's cleanliness. Every new session, children queue up to get their temperatures recorded at entry after having their hands washed. The teachers enter the washrooms with the children and observes that all of them wash their hands, in between their fingers and in nails just like how they've learnt it in class using actions for the steps.

A boy with a slight temperature reading was brought aside immediately and the teacher who did the temperature reading checked for any other symptoms of common flu.. HFMD.. asked if he was feeling well or giddy or nauseous. Assitant teacher carried on with temperature recording for the other children in that particular class. Children who are not running a temperature and have passed inspection (of not having any drippy nosies or other skin symptoms of HFMD were allowed into the class to arrange their bags.. take out their communication books and were either going to their favourite work stations or read or even work with manipulatives.

The teacher found the boy to have some pimple like outbreak on his hands and slightly a few on the face. She brought him to the office immediately where the sick bay and the head teacher was. The two went through a more detailed inspection on his limbs and asked him to lift up his shirt to check if there were similar pimples on his body. To their horror, the boys stomach and chest had a massive outbreak what looked like chicken pox! They quickly sanitized their hands and the head teacher rang the mother to come fetch the boy and well i suppose to also get a ranting from the head teacher..

As the children were dismissed from school that afternoon, the parents of the boy were nowhere to be found. The mother did not answer repeated calls from the school. Eventually she turned up at the office where the boy returned to rest (his fever escalated). Upon investigation, the mother said she had no choice but to send her son to school that day as she had to bring her other child to doctor and after that to the school as she seemed to have recovered from chicken pox herself & required a clearance letter to give to the school. *faint* Her reasoning was that she was running out of annual leave days and that her boss faulted her for taking so many within the same month. Fearing the loss of her job, she cited that reason.. No choice. She said she was busy trying to clear her work at home so she would rather have them in school than at home. She does not have a helper nor other alternative caregivers.

Here's the climax.. the parent admitted she knew that her son had gotten the pox when she had sent him to school that Monday. The signs were quite evident over the weekend. *faint again* Now comes the irrational part. She "knew" it was a contagious illness but she had no way of separating them from each other. She didn't quarantine her daughter either when she first got it. She claimed she couldn't keep them apart... so just let them play and sleep together.... *gasp*

She still pleaded that the school not report it. She said she would bring the son to the doc but said she just had to ask if the centre can still take in her son even if he had to remain in sick bay for the next two weeks. She had a sinking feeling she was going to lose her job..

Oh my.....

I wouldn't go into the details of what transpired next but being a responsible centre the head teacher did what she had to and boi she didn't mince her words.

Of course, in this case... the head teacher had no choice. LOL!

Case 2

A mother wrote to inform the teacher that her daughter wasn't feeling well but insisted to come to school. The girl didn't want to miss out on practice for a performance she was looking forward to... and teacher just asked the girl to go to her seat and to inform the teacher if she felt worse cos she would need to call her mother to take her home. No, the teacher didn't check for temperature or any body inspection of any kind. The girl went back to sit with her other friends.

As the teacher went to prepare to start lessons, the student beside her asked why she was feeling unwell and automatically moved her palm to touch her forehead. It was very hot... to the touch! Another classmate said she is definitely having high fever and should rest. The sick girl went quiet and just sat there. I suppose controlling the headache assuming the high fever. She managed to finish the session till dismissal time... yes, amazingly... without fainting.

Case 3

A child having recovered from HFMD came to school with the marks still not dried up yet and was refused entry. Amidst the morning crowd who were queueing up to have their children routinely checked, the mother left her child at the reception area for work saying she was already running late.

Now here's how the cases pan out in the end.

Case 1 > The teacher who first checked the boy's temperature and conducted routine body inspection contracted chicken pox along with a few classmates who were seated near him whilst queueing up to get themselves checked. She was immediately given 2wks medical leave by the GP. She had to cancel her paid holiday. The children of her class had to settle with combined classes for the first few days while they awaited the promised extra hand from another branch. The other children who were diagnosed with the pox also had to stay home... most for 3 weeks so they could fully recover. Parents' choice. The teacher only resumed after the 3rd week herself as agreed upon with the head teacher.

Case 2 > One of the children who was seated near the girl with high fever, eventually had high fever herself. After two days of fever spikes, rashes broke out all over the body. More so on back of hands, on foot, along undergarment lines etc.. The girl's fever escalated and on the third day it was more certain that it had upgraded to scarlet fever. She developed the strawberry effect on the tongue only on the 4th day.

The girl had to stay home the whole week plus. Quarantined in her room the whole time. Only allowed outside for shower and meals.. and only when the other family members were done. The parents had to also care for other children in the house and take leave. Parents seeked proper clearance from doctor before resuming school. School insinuated that she was the first one to start the spread.

Case 3 > Many children within the reception area who played with the boy while they all waited for their routine checks got HFMD themselves. The centre had to close for the given mandatory period. All parents had to seek alternative care during the closure with no fees refunded.

These cases are only a few of the hundreds I have had encounters with. These real life cases are reflective of the irresponsible actions of parents. I am appalled at the behaviour of supposedly mature adults allowing for a disease to spread to other children. While preventive measures were in place to reduce the widespread, it could have been totally avoided.

Teachers get so much flak over various thousand and one issues and they still get reprimanded by parents who have been advised to bring their children home to rest once they have been checked to be unwell or unfit to attend school.

Preventing a widespread of diseases is a social responsiblity likewise with our nation's highly lauded cleanliness level. This can only be achieved together. If everyone play their part in being responsible citizens and parents; can we then ensure our children can all be healthy children; who can then learn better in school.

Keep sick children at home. Period!

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