Faced with the increase in cases of contamination of Covid-19, what did the government of Amazonas do? Did you close shopping malls, cinemas, bars? No. Postponed the start of classes. Let the yellow light turn on again for those who consider education a priority. We are in the 3rd year of the pandemic, there are children and young people in Brazil for two years without face-to-face classes and without access to remote ones, and schools continue to be the first to close.
One can try to minimize the fact by arguing that the postponement was for “only” one week, from the 7th to the 14th of February. First point: February 7 would already be a late start in the face of the tragedy of Brazilian education in the pandemic. In São Paulo, the state network starts on February 2nd, and most of the private schools start earlier, on the next Monday, January 24th, or, in the case of the capital, on the 26th, after the city’s anniversary – there are even schools who resume classes on the holiday itself.
Another question to be asked: if the objective is to contain the contamination, would “just” a week without classes be enough, especially considering that the movement of people will remain little changed because there will be no other closures? The measure sounds like quick satisfaction to a population traumatized by the 2021 health collapse and which sees the current hospital occupancy rate approaching 80%. But, at this point, does the government have any other plan besides postponing classes, even taking into account that research shows that schools, with protocols, are among the environments that least collaborate for the spread of the virus?
It is also unacceptable that, with all the experience of the pandemic accumulated since 2020, the postponement of the start of classes is imposed on all cities in the state, without considering the local contamination rates. The Amazon decree postponed classes in state schools in all cities and recommended that the same be done in municipal and private schools. The lack of logic of the measure is even clearer with the decision of the Manaus City Hall not to follow this guidance from the state government, keeping the beginning of classes in the municipal network for February 7th.
Let’s remember an important piece of this chess: this year, there will be no municipal elections, but for state governments. This means that the decisions of mayors are, for now, less connected to electoral interests than those of governors/pre-candidates for reelection. In 2020, it was the opposite, and this was evident in São Paulo. The government released face-to-face classes in September, and many mayors decided to keep schools closed, not based on the guidance of health committees, but on surveys carried out by election campaign teams that showed the fear of parents (voters) that children were contaminated.
The health committees that advise the authorities, by the way, currently have very different lines from those of 2020, when nothing was considered beyond the curves of contamination, hospitalization and deaths from Covid-19. Obviously the scenario has also changed by the advance of vaccination, including, this year, of children. But it is not essentially about that, but about the realization that the closing of schools, in addition to the colossal damage to learning, in part already measured by research, was incalculably destructive to the mental health of children and adolescents.
In an interview this week to the newspaper “O Globo”, Fiocruz pulmonologist Margareth Dalcolmo, a Brazilian reference in the fight against the pandemic, leaves no doubt about the need to have face-to-face classes even with the ômicron: “Anyway, at this moment, there are people are already vaccinated and wearing masks, and there are adequate protocols in the school environment (…) Nothing is greater than the harm of keeping children away from schools for a longer time”.
Finally, something that has been left out of this debate is the maintenance of the closure of universities, public and private. It is as if, for young people, some of them still teenagers, at 17, there are no consequences for going online ad aeternum. Even though they are more capable of following remote teaching than basic education students, there is no doubt that the quality of learning is lost in this model. Not to mention the socio-emotional harm caused by the lack of coexistence with colleagues and teachers. New professionals form amidst anxiety attacks, depression, panic syndrome, etc.
In the case of this other chess, the university one, the economic interest of maintaining remote courses is increasingly obvious. In addition to saving on the maintenance of buildings, it is possible to unify classes and, in the case of private ones, dismiss teachers. It is also to spend less that city halls, such as São Roque (SP), have not yet reopened schools, even after the release of the resumption of classes in all states.
The chasm of educational inequality continues to grow between regions and between private and public education. In São Paulo, for example, the tendency is to no longer appeal to the closure of schools. In addition, protocols, especially in private ones, which have medical consultations, must be relaxed so that the suspension of a class in case of contamination of a student is avoided as much as possible or that, at least, the return to school is as soon as possible. possible.
The equity in Brazil is that everyone, including students and teachers in remote learning, can go to parties and bars. It is the opposite extreme of countries that prioritize education, in which, since the height of the uncertainties of 2020, it has already been defined which schools would be the last to close and the first to reopen. A striking image is that of parents, in the strictest lockdown in Switzerland, being stopped by police officers and released when they present proof that they were on the street to take or pick up their children from school.
Here, we have to come to terms with the fact that the government of Amazonas has postponed the start of classes for “only” a week (for now) and also for having, in the same decree, canceled the Carnival parade. I just needed to keep the revelry…
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