Editorial, Back to school — and back to work

Froon and Kremers
A selfie of two young Dutchwomen who died in a national park a few years ago, one of the proximate causes being that there was no cell phone connection when they tried to call for help. It was a blow to national tourism and there was a tiny bit of improvement to bring telecommunications to some parts of Panama’s protected wilderness areas. And things slid along until another scandal, a weird cult torturing people to death in an indigenous village out of cell phone range. But all along our cell phone concessions called for full national coverage, which Panama has never received.

Stride forward, not backward, as schools reopen

The government is pondering sending the kids back to school in July, at first “a distancia,” which can mean many things but usually means online.

A cursory first glance, though, finds nearly one-third of Panama’s school kids without an Internet connection at their homes. There are those beyond any Internet signal. There are those living without electricity, some in places not served by power lines. There are those households without a suitable computer for the students to use, or more students than computers that would be needed. Many of our teachers are not properly trained or equipped to teach online, and may not have Internet connections themselves.

The people to whom the president is listening don’t personally know any of those kids and are advising the government to abandon the public schools in favor of the private schools where they send their kids. It’s a wonderful formula to provoke widespread social disturbances.

However, meeting the immense challenge of going back to school would allow us to address other urgent issues facing a country with a plague-shattered economy.

The most militantly selfish of the rich would object in principle, the hustlers would see opportunities and the “no se puede” bureaucrats would get their eternal pessimism fed. And then an administration that has flubbed many of the economic details would have its chance for long-lasting greatness.

We don’t have nationwide telecommunications? The companies have breached their contracts and should not be heard to object. Build those towers, install those electronics, put the potentially troublesome unemployed back to work doing that.

We have places with no electricity even if there is a signal, and students without computers? Provide those families with photovoltaic cells and batteries sufficient to run a laptop and a light bulb. Give those kids laptops.

We have teachers who don’t have the computer skills to teach, and students who don’t have the computer skills to learn? Sounds like we need to hire a bunch of tutors, and give them the protective clothing they will need to go out in an environment where the COVID-19 virus is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

And when the “mostly clear” signal comes and kids can go back in their masks to classrooms? It looks like we will have more than the usual number with health problems that should keep them at home. We have long had to make provisions for those receiving chemotherapy or with otherwise compromised immune systems. That part of public education would have to be expanded and enriched.

And when the pandemic is history? Then Panama will be a better connected, more modern, more highly developed, better educated and more prosperous country.


Sid keeps his cool

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha


Bear in mind…


Like the mind-set that places men above women, whites above blacks, and rich above poor, the mentality that places humans above nature is a dysfunctional delusion.

Petra Kelly


Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.



Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.

Alice Walker


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