Opinion: The pandemic has shed light on some major problems, such as violence and a mass shortage of manpower; if government does not address these issues soon, repercussions could be catastrophic

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton’s standpoint on the COVID pandemic, especially her reluctance to support pediatric coronavirus vaccinations, is outrageous.

It apparently was the main factor behind the dismissal of Education Ministry Director-General Yigal Slovak a few days ago, and has resulted in a conflict between her and other government members.

יפעת שאשא ביטון ויגאל סלוביק בועדת החינוך
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and former Education Ministry CEO Yigal Slovak (Photo: Noam Moskowitz, Knesset spokesperson)


But even though the struggle with the pandemic is urgent and very important, in the case of the Education Ministry, it’s just another symptom, a symptom of a complex and beaten system, through which the battle with COVID gives a view to other aspects of this system.

The coronavirus is a powerful spotlight, and it has awkwardly lit up many aspects of our lives, and schools and kindergarten were among those aspects.

While the educational system has been operating as it should be, and continuously, since the beginning of the year, inside the institutions, the educational teams are dealing with a very difficult reality.

The gaps between the students of the same grades, and the gaps between the schools themselves, are huge, the violence is rising, and there is a dramatic shortage of manpower. The heads of authorities are desperately trying to find assistants for the kindergarten and for those who need special education, many teachers leave their teaching jobs, and some even in the middle of the year.

All these difficulties existed before COVID, but the pandemic only made them worse, and the health issue is one of the main difficulties.

היום הראשון ללימודים בבית הספר ענבלים במודיעין
Children in a classroom wearing masks amid pandemic (Photo: Yariv Katz)


The fact that the ministry hasn’t been able to form a policy that puts the students’ health first is alarming. Israel has many health experts, most of the population is vaccinated, there are vaccination campaigns taking place in schools. Yet, the ministry still refuses to prioritize our children’s health by formulating an official outline.

But if the director general of the ministry and its minister can’t agree on a decision that is supposed to be so easy, then what will happen with the more complex ones, such as the manpower shortage?

From conversations with teachers and parents, you get the sense of helplessness.
Everyone tries to do the best on their part, but in the end, there is no system that can provide the foundation for meaningful work. The fact that the ministry for a long time suffered from instability due to years of political deadlock, did not help the situation. But at the end of the day, the ministry is the one that is supposed to set the entire education system in motion and hold it together.

פיילוט מסכות שקופות בעפולה
A teacher talking to a child in class (Photo: Rubi Koter, the Afula municipality)


My colleague Nadav Eyal wrote in detail about how the Education Ministry disavowed responsibility and passed on the impossible task of vaccinating children to the school principals. The consequences of this decision are dramatic because populations from low socio-economic backgrounds will be the ones paying for it.

This systemic failure to handle the pandemic is echoed greatly within the education system. The principals are sent without any meaningful tools and without any support from the ministry to handle the extremely complex issue of vaccination children against COVID on school grounds.

The Education Ministry, like the entire educational system, does not need a hero or a savior, more reforms or empty slogans. The ministry, along with the entire education system, just need better conditions to work in. More personnel, support in educational decisions, accessible resources, relevant educational models from which to choose from, dramatic reduction of bureaucracy, and leadership that can speak with one voice.

נפתלי בנט בביקור בבית הספר המאוחד ירוחם
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton visit a school (Photo: Haim Zach)


Caring for children’s health instead of giving in to fake news is another necessity for uninterrupted and meaningful learning, not one that shifts the power to the principals in pursuit of approval, to manage hopeless health campaigns by themselves.

Pediatric vaccinations is no longer an issue of a specific minister and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett should step in to try and establish common policies on the matter. It’s too important because the repercussions will have a long-term effect on our education system.

Those who will pay the price of chaos will be the ones who always pay for governmental failures – the weak – the children of parents from low socio-economic background.

As reported by Ynetnews