Governing by avoiding responsibility — by Elisabeth in Poland

We all wish to ‘go back to normal’, however this new ‘normal’ might look like. 

In Poland, as part of the process of ‘defrosting’ the economy, the government authorised the re-opening of educational institutions for the youngest, i.e. crashes and kindergartens, as of 6 May. Yet, the final decision on this matter and accompanying responsibility was delegated to lower governance levels – city mayors, in majority of cases – giving rise to a number of dilemmas and challenges.  

Up until this day, many majors refrained from implementing the government’s decision to re-open. Why, if we all wish to ‘go back to normal’? The answer is rather straightforward: such decision comes with assuming significant responsibility for the health and lives of children and a broader community. 

Thus, from the level of city mayors, responsibility for concrete implementation of the safe re-opening was transferred even lower – to heads of educational institutions. The latter were tasked with developing safety procedures to be implemented during the Covid-19 epidemics, in accordance with the Guidelines of the Ministry of Education and the Main Sanitary Inspectorate. During the long May weekend, they were also obliged to prepare lists of children whose parents were willing to send them back to crashes and kindergardens as well as registers of disinfectants and personal protection equipment for employees. They also had to conduct numerous conversations with concerned employees – and even more distressed parents – almost assuming the role of psychologists.

Transferring authority and ensuing responsibility to lower governing bodies seems to be a common practice in the times of pandemic, because who wants to be liable for putting at risk the health and lives of other human beings? Such governance method whereby political authority gets disconnected from social accountability is, however, ethically wrong and creates a dangerous blueprint for the future.

Elisabeth, 56, Poland