11 Aug 2022

WATCH: Donegal parents explain mandatory facemask concerns

'No child should be excluded from school for not wearing a mask' - Bernardos Children's Charity

Parental protests have taken place across Inishowen at the Government's call for mandatory facemask wearing for children in Third Class and upwards.

At the protest held in Buncrana's Market Square on Friday, mother, Jennifer Lavin, explained to Donegal Live why she was not in favour with the move.

Barnardos children's charity said it was also concerned by the introduction of mandatory facemask wearing for the demographic.

In a statement, Bernardos said: "We are concerned about the call for mandatory facemask wearing for children age nine/third class and upwards in schools for a three-month period.

While we respect the need for public health measures, we believe that mask wearing in schools will impact on children’s social and emotional development.

Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly said: “No child should be excluded from school for not wearing a mask. There has been insufficient preparation time given to parents and teachers to be able to introduce this public health recommendation, and no lead-time for them to prepare children for this big change.

“Covid-19 has had a huge impact on children overall – any further restrictions to children will have a cumulative effect on their education and their childhood. We urge the Government to keep this measure under frequent review in the best interest of children. ”

The advocacy group Chime, which "champions  for equal rights, greater accessibility and opportunities for individuals impacted by deafness and hearing loss" has also voiced concern.

Brendan Lennon, who is Head of Advocacy at Chime, said the measure would exacerbate socio-emotional challenges among Deaf and hard of hearing children if it becomes the norm.

Mr Lennon added: "This has to do with being able to make friends. The age of nine to twelve is a critical period, not just for learning in school, but to be able to engage with your peers, make friends, and have the craic.

"And if you can’t do that, you feel left out and isolated. You might develop long-term mental health and well-being issues that go with adolescence, which could have lifelong implications.”

The Chairperson of Our New Ears, Laura Grant, whose ten-year-old son James is profoundly Deaf and uses a cochlear implant, feels he has been “thrown under the bus” by the requirement.

Our New Ears (one) IS a voluntarily organisation, which supports families of deaf children who use technology to hear.

Ms Grant said the issue is not with her son wearing a mask but with all the people around him wearing them: her son will be unable to lip-read and will also have difficulty in picking up the sound of voices via his implant because face masks will muffle them.

She added: “If a teacher, wearing a mask, asks a question to the class that’s put out to the floor, a hard of hearing pupil has not got a hope of hearing what the question is, or the response from pupils, who are also wear masks.

“When this was meant to be for a two-week period, I thought, ‘Oh my god, let’s just do our best for the next few weeks’. But now we’re looking at two-and-a-half to three months. That’s a whole term of school.”


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