Despite being among the ten states with the highest number of fatal victims of the new coronavirus, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná decided to reopen the doors of their schools this month.
In general, the return takes place gradually and provides for a series of health criteria such as social distance, priority in collective and open environments, the mandatory use of masks by students, employees and teachers.
Despite the remaining 15 states and the Federal District continue with no forecast for the return of activities on site, the resumption of classes, even if partial, is a matter of great concern among teachers.
If we do not have a change of scenery and we do not have a vaccine, it makes no sense to put the lives of the population at risk.
Catarina de Almeida Santos, a member of the National Campaign for the Right to Education, affirms that the articulation defends the return to school only when there is security, either through the control of the de facto pandemic and the ample immunization, as well as by ensuring the structure for the strict compliance with health protocols.
“The scenario we have today is a worse scenario than the one in which classes were suspended. If in March we suspended classes in a more favorable scenario than we have today, it does not make sense to resume classes. If we do not have a change of scenery and we do not have a vaccine, it makes no sense to put the lives of the population at risk ”, defends Santos.
Remember: Returning to school puts the lives of 9.3 million people at risk, says Fiocruz
According to the professor at the University of Brasilia (UnB), “objectively there is no government that has presented a project to retake the schools showing that they have infrastructure.” “The education departments have placed the responsibilities on the school units to provide protection and all measures ”, he argues.
For her, the set of protocols to be adopted should be developed with the participation of the school community as a whole. Thinking about training by cycle, for example, disconnecting the school year from the civil calendar, would be one of the ways to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic.
:: Back to school: protocols not fulfilled and lack of structure are of concern ::
We are not going to solve it just by reopening schools without security.
Faced with the socioeconomic crisis, Santos points out the weaknesses of the argument that the return to face-to-face classes for high school and EJA are important to stop the increase in school dropout.
“Without a very serious process of active search, without a curriculum design that shows these students that it is worth going back to school, the evasion process is already underway. We are not going to solve it just by reopening schools without security, ”he says.
“The education network has presented many more decisions at the touch of a button than thought education as a right for the population. It goes a long way in the wave of what the press talks about, what business and political foundations are talking about. Basically, nobody is thinking about the safety of life for students and their families, as well as guaranteeing the right to education ”, he adds.
The new coronavirus pandemic also opened up educational inequalities in Brazil. In addition to the disparity in the conditions of access to remote education among students from public and private schools, the prevention structure also highlights a social abyss.
While 17 states are authorized to resume face-to-face classes in private schools, according to the National Federation of Private Schools, with the wide offer of alcohol in gels and masks, public schools do not have universal access to water.
In other words: washing hands, the most basic recommendation to fight the coronavirus, is not a possibility for thousands of students. According to data from the 2019 School Census, there are 10,685 thousand public schools without drinking water in the country.
Denise Romano, general coordinator of the Single Union of Education Workers of Minas Gerais, says that the threat of returning to face-to-face classes overlooks the evident lack of structure.
She points out that, according to preliminary data from the 2020 School Census, in 1,114 schools in Minas Gerais, bathrooms are shared between students and staff. In 940, there are no cafeterias.
Romano criticizes the fact that the return to classes followed the protocols of the Minas Consciente program, the same parameters used for the commercial reopening.
“[A decisão de] opening the school has many variables and cannot be treated with the opening of bars and cafeterias ”, says the teacher.
“The protocols created are impossible to be complied with in public schools. Whoever created these protocols does not know the reality of the 853 municipalities in Minas Gerais and does not know what schools mean where there is not even a cafeteria for students to snack on ”, he argues.
“Strike for life”
Against the resumption of classes for the 3rd year of high school, scheduled for the beginning of next week, teachers’ unions in Rio de Janeiro decided to keep the category’s strike in an assembly held last Saturday (10).
The so-called “strike for life” defends the maintenance of remote education in defense of public health.
“The pandemic is not over. Inspection, health and contagion specialists are not even being consulted. We do not have reports or statements authorizing the return to classes. Unfortunately, none of the schools underwent any type of planning, change, structure, with safe spaces to receive education professionals ”, laments Dorothea Frota Santana, director of the State Union of Education Professionals in Rio (Sepe) of Jacarépagua.
The absence of family contamination mapping, testing and delivery of chips to guarantee internet access for students in the state network, according to her, make the situation of education in the midst of the pandemic even more precarious. Of the 2,800 students at the school where he works, only 680 were able to access online activities.
For Santana, the resumption of activities must take into account the reality of the territories, especially in the peripheries. In the Curicica neighborhood, for example, where he teaches, there is a high level of contagion among the local population, who, subject to informality, cannot socially isolate themselves.
A hearing at the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice is scheduled for next week to outline the next steps in negotiations between teachers and state and municipal governments.
Health at risk
In the opinion of Catarina de Almeida Santos, of the National Campaign for the Right to Education, the return to face-to-face activities at this moment shows the little importance that the education system gives to teachers.
“They consider it more of a burden than fundamental professionals in the teaching-learning process. These people are going to school under stress. No one learns under stress ”, he observes.
After seven months away from school, she believes that social distance from young people and especially from teachers is an impossible goal.
“Imagine resuming classes with students who have been away from school, who will be having difficulties, how can you not approach them? Students will return to schools in environments of multiple violence and violations. With lag. As the teacher does not support, does not approach, does not guide? ”, He asks.
On the other hand, she endorses that the recovery of the educational process is possible even in such adverse circumstances, “as long as education is taken seriously”.
“If we had schools with other infrastructure, teachers and students who had access and were used to technology, the losses would be much less. And recovery will be more difficult precisely because schools are in these conditions “, he criticizes.
In São Paulo, for example, the state that tops the list of the states most impacted by covid-19 with just over one million contaminations and 37,500 deaths, face-to-face classes in the state network have optionally returned to high schools and Youth and Adult Education (EJA) on October 7th.
Each teaching unit can work with up to 35% of the total capacity in the classroom. For schools serving elementary school students, the expected return date is November 3.
Governor João Doria had already authorized the opening of public and private schools as of September 8 to carry out extracurricular activities, however, the reopening of schools in each city is the responsibility of the mayors. The requirement for the decision is that all regions of the state are in the 3-yellow phase of the São Paulo Plan.
In Rio de Janeiro and Paraná, which are in the 2nd and 10th positions regarding the registration of deaths by covid-19, the return is scheduled for October 19th. In Rio, the option of face-to-face education is for students in the 3rd year of high school, a modality that gathers about 126 thousand enrollments. The priority is due to the National High School Exam (Enem).
In Paraná, the resumption should happen later this month in regions with lower epidemiological rates in relation to contamination by the new coronavirus, such as Cianorte, Umuarama, Ponta Grossa, Pato Branco, Wenceslau Braz and Francisco Beltrão.
In seventh place is Pará, which also plans to resume state schools in the 3rd year of high school in October.
The 10th reopening in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, on the other hand, took place on September 8 with early childhood students in municipal and private schools. The Secretariat of Education (Seduc) summoned high school and technical education professionals to return on October 5, by rotation and staggering.
In Pernambuco, the fourth state with the highest number of deaths, there was a return to private education and the forecast for resumption of public school is October 21.
Classes will not return in Minas Gerais, fifth place, on October 19, due to a preliminary court decision that, following a writ of mandamus from the Single Union of Education Workers of Minas Gerais (Sind-UTE), suspended the decision of the Zema government.
The return of face-to-face activities in the state network was authorized in the municipalities located in regions classified as “green wave” in the Minas Consciente program.
Considered a laboratory for classroom classes in Brazil, Amazonas opened the doors of teaching units on August 10 and left negative tracks. According to the State Health Surveillance Foundation, in the second week of reopening at least 10% of teachers in the state public network tested positive for the coronavirus.
In Espírito Santo, classes returned last Tuesday (13th). Piauí and Santa Catarina are also among those who plan to return to the month of October, totaling 11 states in planning or executing face-to-face classes.
Edition: Rodrigo Chagas