Back to school

Mexican schools reopen after pandemic closed them for over a year.

A number of Mexican states and Mexico City allowed schools to reopen on 7 June 2021, after more than a year has passed since they were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement, which will allow 1.5 million children to return to school, was made on the same week that the government announced a specific vaccination programme for teachers.

An expert in social studies in Mexico was furious, “By having no clear policy, President López Obrador (“AMLO”) has locked millions of children out of school and undermined the entire education sector. The unions of teachers have also demanded that there will be no return to classrooms until all teachers are vaccinated. As a result, thousands of schools have gone bankrupt and parents have lost their jobs because they have to look after their children. The wealthy have paid for private online courses but not all of those are good.”

“By having no clear policy, President López Obrador (“AMLO”) has locked millions of children out of school and undermined the entire education sector.”

Social studies expert, Mexico

Unfortunately, as the reopening started, confusion reigned around different state requirements and only 11.3% of schools actually managed to open. Many are still concerned following the failed re-opening of schools in Campeche last April when they were forced to close after a month following an alarming rise in infections. Thus, throughout Mexico, most schools have set up alternative attendance days for different groups of students and attendance is not obligatory.

A former education official was concerned, “It will be a hasty return, without form and substance and with no understanding of the impact the pandemic has had on children. Many are worried about the financial cost but there will also be a social cost which will bring a greater economic cost if solutions are not proposed to manage the transition from Zoom to the classroom.”

“It will be a hasty return, without form and substance and with no understanding of the impact the pandemic has had on children.”

Former education official, Mexico

Astrid Hollander, education director at Unicef Mexico believed that the benefits of the return to school outweighed the problems of children who could not access distance learning, considered to be six in 100 throughout the country. Hollander said that 25.4 million primary school students and 5.2 million secondary school students were adversely affected by school closures in Mexico.

As the children return to school, what awaits them? The social studies expert explained, “While schools were closed, there has been a large number of thefts of IT and other equipment by organised criminal groups. Also, AMLO dissolved the old institution that regulated the maintenance of public schools and is expecting parent societies, without intermediaries, to receive and manage the resources to maintain the schools. Will they respect protocol? Will they understand health and safety measures? No.”

As Mexico looks to the future, education specialists in Mexico have identified a number of challenges to address for the future. These include, the digital divide among students, improving personalised education as children’s special needs have increased and to focus more on technology training and mental health issues. Unicef Mexico showed that the impact of mental health disorders had been higher in children than in adults during the pandemic.

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