SEP Scraps Controversial Back to School ActivityBy Sofía Hanna | Mon, 08/16/2021 - 15:18
On August 12, Mexico’s government made an official decree sending children back to in-person classes on August 30. On his morning press conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said why he believes this decision to be essential and explained the measures that will be carried out for a safe return. The decision has been controversial, leading the government to change some protocols and decisions.
President López Obrador had repeatedly mentioned during his morning press conferences the importance of returning children to in-person classes but had also highlighted the precautions that will be taken to ensure their health and safety. These measures include: health filters at home and school, sanitary protocols in schools that include preventive measures, no ceremonies or meetings and immediate action on suspicion of COVID-19. In his morning conference, he highlighted that it is urgent to generate a friendly and conductive space for children’s socialization, which will also reduce stress caused by staying home for long periods and provide the social-emotional support that is part of education.
According to an official report of the Mexican government, 5.2 million students did not enroll in the 2020-2021 school year due to causes related to COVID-19 or lack of resources. Previously MBN reported that public schools, despite wanting to continue teaching, were limited by the low resources of the schools and students.
Moreover, the long confinement period led to a spike in domestic violence. During the first semester of 2021, 129,020 investigation folders for family violence were registered, an increase of 24 percent compared to the same period of the previous year. Furthermore, in 2020 there were 373,661 births to teenage mothers, of which 8,876 children were born to girls under 14 years of age.
Authorities have argued that in-person classes will not lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases, with Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell stating that “All these ideas that are circulating that now it is an epidemic of teenagers and children have no support or evidence, neither in Mexico nor in any other part of the world.” However, cases are increasing among children. On August 14, Reuters reported that “the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US hit a record high of just over 1,900 on Saturday, as hospitals across the South were stretched to capacity fighting outbreaks caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant.”
A Failed Activity
To promote the return to schools, authorities proposed a “Back to School Activity” in which children would write on a piece of paper the reasons they are happy to return to classes. Children would then put the note in a balloon, exchange it with classmates, burst the balloon and read what the others wrote. However, the activity was scrapped hours after it was proposed, given the sharp criticism it received from experts and parents.