Fleas have caused the temporary closure of Guyana’s top secondary school, Queen’s College. When this news first broke my initial impression was that this had to be some sort of April Fool’s joke.
Then I recalled that we are in the month of November and that, therefore, the alleged presence of fleas did in fact force the school’s administration to suspend classes until the infestation is removed.
Back in the day, no one could contemplate fleas in a school, much less for classes to be suspended because of a flea infestation. The schools were then not much cleaner than the schools of today. In fact, there was far more filth around then than there is now.
These days, dirty toilets force many parents to shutdown schools. Back in the day, stinking, fetid toilets were a norm. When you went into the washroom, you had to hold your nose, close your eyes, and hope that your aim was right.
You did everything standing up. No one could have dared to sit down when in those toilets. The boys often did what they had to do behind some tree rather than risk going into those toilets, the smell of which at times carried into the classroom. It was much easier unzipping behind a tree rather than risk holding your breath in a toilet.
When it rained, and there was grimy seepage from the toilets into the corridors, students did turn up their noses, but many simply walked or jumped over the waterline as it meandered its way around the school compound.
There was not as much garbage then as there is now. The children did not have a great deal of money to take to school and even if they did have a lot of money, there was not the variety of items on sale then as there is now. Today’s schools generate a great deal of garbage, but for that garbage to be a source of fleas is questionable. The capital city is fast becoming a garbage dump and no one complains about fleas. There are other threats to be worried about.
Back in the day, school garbage was often dumped in a section of the school compound and burnt. At times, rodents could be seen rummaging through the litter pile, but when that occurred, it was a time of fun for the children.
Many a rat met his end at the hands of school children. They would chase that rat until it had no escape and then they impale it. The scene was akin to a cavalry charging down a foreign army, except in this instance it was a single rodent running for his life.
Cats were not to be seen around schools, but if a stray dog was discovered within the precincts of a school, heaven help that dog! By the time the students were finished with him or her, the poor animal would be seriously maimed or near death from exhaustion
In that respect, the schoolchildren of today are much more humane to animals than back in the day. These days we are told that stray dogs and cats inhabit schools, and that in the case of Guyana’s top school, these animals could have been the source of the flea infestation.
The authorities need to understand that while these dogs and cats may be strays, their presence in many schools are actively encouraged, not by the school’s administration or by the students, but by some of the security guards.
These guards like to have these animals around them so that at night, the dogs can take over the watch while the guards sleep. Many dogs that are found in schools are used as watchdogs. They bark when they see something and this awakens some guards who fall asleep on the job.
It must be said that not all cases where there are dogs and cats in the schools these are encouraged, but in many cases this is so. It is known that some guards feed the dogs and keep them around them so that when they are asleep, the dogs keep an eye. This may not be the case at the school that had to suspend classes, but it is so in many other places.
Despite the presence of dogs and cats in many public institutions, it is hard to see how a flea infestation can cause a school to be closed. Back in the day, not even a fly ventured into a school for fear of getting sick from the smelly toilets. And if there were fleas around, they would be stampeded by the children.
The parents and students of today are however extremely health conscious, and it is wise that the authorities err on the side of caution, because fleas can carry diseases and when a flea gets on your body, it is not easy to dislodge.
As such, the school has to be fumigated until this infestation disappears, but you can bet your bottom dollar that with Christmas exams around the corner, a great many reports are going to be made by students in other schools that they were bitten by a small insect while in class.
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