Auckland children have now missed another week of school. Why are we not hearing any concern about this from those who profess to expertise in education?
Last year the kids lost nine weeks under lockdowns. That's nearly a quarter of a school year, almost a full term. Doesn't that matter?
Education authorities have been remarkably quiet about it. Schools have been under no obligation to run catch-up sessions once lockdowns were lifted, nor to work through term holidays that had become superfluous. Instead, the authorities made allowance for lost time in end-of-year exams as though that was all that mattered.
Most surprisingly, schools were in no hurry to re-open after the summer break this year. Many did not bother returning between Anniversary Day and Waitangi weekend. It was February 9 by the time those kids went back to school.
They had just four days in class before the Papatoetoe outbreak closed schools for three days in February. Then they got a five-day week before the city was put back under level 3 last weekend. That's a grand total of 10 days' schooling so far this year and we are into March.
For students starting tertiary education this would have been their orientation week, a rare time when a university feels like more than a smorgasbord of courses.
With epidemiologists warning that more lockdowns will probably be needed before New Zealand is sufficiently vaccinated and the Government in no apparent hurry to start a mass vaccination programme before the second half of the year, 2021 looks likely to be no better for education.
What is most disappointing is that professional voices have not just been very quiet about this, those that speak for teachers have criticised the lifting of lockdowns at times. They've sounded more worried about risks to teachers' health.
I know teachers are doing their utmost to provide classes online during lockdowns but I also know - and I think they know - a screen is no substitute for a classroom. And a parent is no substitute for a teacher. The Herald contacted a number of parents last Sunday when Auckland schools were closed for the fourth time in this pandemic and many admitted they were a "terrible teacher". They were variously "stressed", "frustrated" and "gutted" at having to do it again.
"Gutted" was probably the word for Aucklanders' general reaction to the latest stay-home order. Each lockdown has evoked a widespread sentiment that could be summarised in a word or phrase. The first was characterised by Jacinda Ardern's "be kind", the second brought a chorus of, "I'm over this."
When the city was locked down again in February, a nurse at a South Auckland swabbing station complained that, "People in healthcare are the ones doing this right, everybody else is just going, 'Oh yeah, whatever'."
"Oh yeah, whatever" perfectly summed up the mood during those three days at level 3 last month. It was probably the reaction of the young KFC worker and the MIT student when they were told to self-isolate. Punitive actions have been urged against those youngsters this week by older folk who ought to stop and ponder what younger generations are being asked to do for them.
"Covid kills," the Prime Minister reminded those inclined to ignore stay-home orders, but she ought to complete the sentence. "Covid kills your grandparents." It's frustrating to receive her solicitude. My grandchildren should not be missing school to keep me safe. Frankly, their education is more important to me and I'm not alone among contemporaries in that view.
Initially we feared lockdowns would be an economic disaster for younger generations, bring a recession on the scale of the Great Depression and blighting their world for decades. Thanks to the internet, that has not happened.
Even at level 4 last year, a study found only about a third of economic activities could not function. Another third were classed "essential work" and the remaining third were able to be moved online if they weren't already there.
Under level 3, the economic restrictions are much lighter. Construction can continue and all industries are given more discretion to work within the bounds of social distancing if they can. In August and again this week just about all outdoor work appeared to be continuing as normal.
So it may be that lasting damage from lockdowns is felt not in economic consequences but in the education of a generation of children now going through school or seeking tertiary qualifications.
More of them will need higher education if the pandemic has permanently reduced the number of jobs that cannot be done online, such as customer-facing jobs in tourism, hospitality, shops, salons, bars and cafes, often done by the young.
Please don't call these kids the Covid generation, let's ensure lockdowns do not set them back for life.