UNICEF Supports Mexico's Return to In-Person ClassesBy Antonio Gozain | Fri, 08/20/2021 - 13:15
Globally, one of every four children not going to school is Mexican, said UNICEF. The agency recognized the important COVID-19 infection risk caused by the return to in-person classes in most Mexican states by the end of August, but prioritized children’s education and socialization.
“(We know) there may be sources of infection. Let us take that for granted. The question is not whether there will be, because there have been infectious sources throughout the national territory, why should not there be in schools? It is a normal thing to happen. The question is, how do we handle it? How do we effectively manage the infectious outbreaks?” said Luis Fernando Carrera Castro, UNICEF’s representative in Mexico, during the President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s daily press conference.
From the 150 million children that have not returned to school, 37 million are Mexican, exposed Carrera. This data means that almost 25 percent of the students that have not attended to in-person classes in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, are Mexican.
“Putting the situation in numbers: we already have 1 billion children who are returning to school around the world and that delights us. We have 750 million children who are about to go back to in-person classes and, unfortunately, still 150 million children who have never returned to face-to-face classes in 18 months. Unfortunately, Mexico contributes a good part of those 150 million, with almost 37 million,” said Carrera.
Carrera said that he considers Mexico’s government decision a much needed one for the country’s children, who have suffered enormously during the last 18 months. “We need to restore children’s mental health. They have suffered strongly in this period and that is something not always talked about. They have been terribly affected in their personal and affective development,” he said.
Finally, Carrera explained that UNICEF will share a four-step protocol with Mexico to guarantee the safest possible environments for the students. Working together with the Ministry of Education (SEP) and the Ministry of Health, UNICEF will aid in the vigilance of sanitary and hygiene measures, and in tracing infections to prevent bigger COVID-19 outbreaks.
School Letter, Not Mandatory
In early August, Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell supported the President’s decision to return to in-person classes. “The educational sector will be considered an essential activity. Period,” he said, and President López Obrador added: “We cannot live this way (locked-down); we are eminently social. We have to live together with other people and that is what you get in school.”
Once the government determined that in-person classes will return, Delfina Gómez, Minister of Public Education, talked about a commitment letter that parents would be asked to sign to return their children to class. President López Obrador later qualified the letter as a “bureaucratic, authoritarian concept” and assured that it will not be mandatory.