Country enters the most critical moment of the pandemic without solutions for education and without adopting the protocols that allowed other countries to resume classes. Currently, 95 nations keep schools open with limitations
March 23 was marked in the memory of pedagogue Leila Oliveira. It was on this date that, in 2020, public and private schools in São Paulo closed their doors for the first time, in an attempt to contain the advancement of the coronavirus. The measure affected 3.5 million children and adolescents in the state system and 2.3 million students in the private system, not counting the students in the municipal systems. São Paulo was the first state to be dragged into the health crisis and the closure of educational institutions affected thousands of families. “I had to leave the daycare center I worked in Campinas, I was unable to reconcile work with the demands of my daughters' hybrid education”, says the pedagogue. "I could walk away, but I knew that other mothers couldn't stop working."
At that time, little was known about the virus. Pictures of cities in Italy being capitulated by an invisible invader gave only a glimpse of what was to come. Oliveira is part of the group of educators who sought solutions for the closure of schools. She spoke with teachers Germany, Argentina and Portugal. The expectation, in that first moment, was to exchange good practices so that children and adolescents could return to the classroom as soon as possible. The possibility of a long period of distance education was not attractive to any country.
After a year, in what is already considered the worst hospital and sanitary collapse in history, 18 Brazilian states are still obliged to maintain education only remotely - whether by online platform, accessed by cell phone or computer, or even radio, television and printed handouts - the others try to balance a hybrid between face-to-face and distance learning. “The choices we made for the children were terrible,” laments the teacher. “Society discussed whether or not we should return to the classroom, and not what we needed to do in order to be able to return. This shows the lack of Brazilian commitment to children.
The diffuse justifications for the reopening of schools in Brazil would not, for example, pass the criteria used by other countries, such as: downward contamination curve and a public policy focused on the school environment with clear sanitary rules in relation to public transport, food and return home. Not counting the security protocols in case none of this works. These criteria are based on a survey by consultancy Vozes da Educação, conducted in August 2020 in a sample of 20 countries. At that time of the pandemic, Germany, China, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Portugal and Singapore showed the best results as countries that reopened schools without registering contamination rates out of control between students and teachers.
The new variants of the virus, combined with a loosening of social distance measures, meant that some countries had to go back on the plan to return to face-to-face classes. This is the case in Germany and Denmark, as shown by the interactive map of the World Bank, which tracks the situation of schools in the world in real time. The other countries that stood out in the research at the end of last year still keep educational institutions open, but with limitations.
Reflections of remote education
Worldwide, 73 countries have schools closed in some way (either completely, in some areas or for specific periods, such as in Brazil). And in only 26, face-to-face education is fully normalized, with only one in Latin America, Suriname. Another 95 keep schools open with some limitation - in the case, for example, of European countries such as Spain, Portugal and France, and of the United States and Canada. World Bank report warns that economic losses in the region could reach $ 1.7 trillion in productivity after ten months of school closure. "With more than 80% of students below the minimum proficiency levels, learning losses would severely hinder the achievement of basic skills in several countries," says the report. In Brazil, the closure of schools can prevent 70% of children understanding simple texts, according to the report.
“Countries that had successful experiences of reopening last year had good epidemiological control of the disease, strong adherence by society to prevention practices, such as wearing a mask, distance and occupation of outdoor spaces, in addition to transparency and communication of information. trust with school communities ”, says Raquel Franzim, education coordinator at Instituto Alana. She points out that this set of characteristics, coupled with monitoring of cases and regionalization of openings has allowed some countries to keep schools open in the middle of a pandemic. “Since the beginning, the epidemiological authorities have warned us to have a regional look, in a continental country like Brazil. Unfortunately, a year after the start of the pandemic, we were unable to guarantee these aspects with a collaboration between the federal entities. ”
Franzim points out that there are changes in the initial scenario of the pandemic that directly affect the reopening of schools. Initially, it was believed that the important thing for opening schools was sanitary measures, such as cleaning the environment. "Today we know that this is not enough," he says. The classroom infrastructure is what can differentiate between a safe opening or a contagious environment. For example, the existence of cross ventilation, with a door and windows that guarantee air passage, and not just the shutter, which often only partially opens. "This is an aspect that has been part of MEC's own quality indicators for decades, but most Brazilian schools, even the private network, do not guarantee the minimum infrastructure", he says.
Government vetoes project that facilitates internet access
Mônica Pinto, manager of institutional development at the Roberto Marinho Foundation, states that states and municipalities have made a “Herculean effort” to try to get around the problems, but in many places it is teachers and parents who are having to make alternatives for connectivity on their own. "Families do not have the equipment to guarantee remote education," she says. Data the Census of Basic Education 2019 reveal that in primary education, 38.5% of municipal schools do not have access to the internet. In high school, the situation is a little better, 90% of state schools have internet. But this is not reflected in the families' homes. According to the 2019 ICT household survey, 48% of households in rural Brazil do not have access to the world wide web, with 39% of individuals never having access to the internet. In the homes of families of classes D and E, this percentage rises to 50% of the population.
With the federal government involved in political crises, and with the resistance of President Jair Bolsonaro (without a party) to recognize the seriousness of the pandemic, the Ministry of Education (MEC) lost its role as an articulator of actions. The Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate approved a bill (PL 3477/2020) that states that the federal government allocates 3.5 billion reais for states and municipalities to invest in actions to guarantee internet access for students and teachers basic education. But the Government vetoed the bill on March 19, causing perplexity. "Given the lack of national coordination, at least so far, it would be the first important action in the field of education carried out by the Union since the beginning of the pandemic", says, in a note, the National Council of Education Secretaries (Consed). "Had it not been for the efforts of states and municipalities so far, in offering tools to guarantee learning in the period, the damage would have been even greater", adds Consed.
“We should have coordination so that access to the internet becomes a legacy of the pandemic, as is the case in other countries. Unfortunately, the Union lacks interest, ”says Raquel Franzim, an educator at Instituto Alana. For her, talking about the reopening of schools should not be a question of position, but of priority. “An issue that should be technical and ethical has become polarized, in the sense that we are not complying with the legislation. MEC, in the middle of a pandemic, did little to implement the resources it had at hand. ”
The manager of the Roberto Marinho Foundation agrees: “The school community needs to return [to the classroom], we have research that shows a four-year impact on student learning. This is very serious. And the ones who suffer the most are children in situations of vulnerability, the poorest, blacks and browns. The networks were already reporting that about 30% of teenagers were going to give up studying because of the feeling that they do not learn in remote education. ” School dropout, in fact, may cause the country to lose one of the few solid achievements of national education, the universal access to school. “We have schools actively searching for students,” recalls Mônica Pinto. According to her, many of them, literally, are knocking door to door to try to maintain the link with the students. But it is not known if this will be enough.
Back to school measures
The National Education Council approved, in October 2020, a resolution that allows remote education to be maintained until December 31, 2021. “The curricular reordering of what remains of the 2020 school year and the one of the following school year can be reprogrammed, increasing - the school days and the workload of the 2021 school year to continuously meet the learning and development objectives set out in the previous school year ”, says the resolution. The MEC also ém has launched a guide with guidelines for a return to safe face-to-face classes, which gathers technical health safety standards and pedagogical recommendations.
Even so, the vast majority of States have chosen to keep distance learning. Amazonas was the first to bet on face-to-face return to high school classes in August 2020, long before the oxygen shortage crisis exploded in Manaus. With the increase in cases, the State started the academic year 2021 with remote education only. Data the Education Workers Union of Amazonas (Sinteam) show that 64 teachers have died since the beginning of the year in the State, 20 in municipalities in the interior and 44 in the capital, as reported by the newspaper Amazonas Atual in February.
Teachers' class unions and organizations advocate that face-to-face classes only happen when the vaccine is available to the school community, as in Chile. The country of 19 million inhabitants is the only country in Latin America that placed educators among the priorities for the beginning of vaccination. Vaccination of teachers, principals, school cooks, administration staff, among others, began on February 16. The goal was to be able to return to classroom classes in March.
"In a situation in which the pandemic is out of control, it makes no sense to have a face-to-face class," says Professor Sergio Cunha, executive director of the Union of Teachers of Official Education of the State of São Paulo (Apeoesp). The organization decreed a "health strike" in defense of the lives of educators when classes resumed in the state, on February 8. Apeoesp, incidentally, is one of the only entities that frequently accompanies covid-19 infections in schools. Since the beginning of the year, there have been 2,286 cases.
The union filed a writ of mandamus to prevent the Government of São Paulo maintaining face-to-face classes in both public and private schools. With the entry into the red phase, the most critical of the pandemic, the State announced on March 11 the anticipation of school breaks in April and October for the period 15 to 28 March. After this period, it will be redefined if the hybrid model will remain or if the classes will go to the remote mode. “Our schools are unable to guarantee the health security of children and adolescents. Alcohol gel in the rooms? At the school I teach in Guaianazes, the Government placed a totem per corridor. We do not have a drinking fountain, glasses, cleaning the bathrooms, there is a lack of employees, even to prevent crowding during breaks, ”recalls the professor.
Ines Kisil Miskalo, executive articulation manager at the Ayrton Senna Institute, says there is an opportunity for Brazil to rethink the school's time and space. “Education, traditionally, gathers 30, 40 students in the same class, with teachers changing rooms every 40, 50 minutes. This idea of a school is being dismantled. We have an opportunity to review the functioning of this school model, to think about different formats of teaching, to resume learning and overcome what the pandemic took away ”, she says. Miskalo relativizes the criticisms that the pandemic will prevent children learning successfully. “The pandemic just put a spotlight on a problem that already existed. Brazil is not successful in formal education. All the assessments we follow are portraits of different moments with the same failures remaining, ”she explains.