Pandemic and schools: UN agencies urge resumption of classroom lessons

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As we come to the end of the holiday period in Brazil in July, the beginning of a new academic semester brings back the discussion about whether the resumption of face-to-face classes is safe due to the context of the covid-19 pandemic.

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) released a manifesto advocating the safe reopening of schools last July 7, at the end of the Safe Reopening of Schools" Seminar conducted by the Agencies in online format. The text cites recent research conducted by the Intelligence Research and Consulting Institute (Ipec) for Unicef, indicating that two out of ten Brazilian students are attending face-to-face school activities. "When we analyze this data by social class, the differences are enormous. While 40% of A class children can access face-to-face classes, in D and E classes, they are only 16%. The pandemic has deepened the gap of our inequalities, and in education the impact is even greater," says the document.

O Manifesto explains that education is a fundamental right and raises the concern of UN Agencies about the impact of school closures on the learning and development of children and adolescents, as well as the consequences for their mental health, nutrition and protection.

The text also mentions UNESCO's interactive monitoring map, according to which, at the global level, schools were closed (totally or partially) for an average of 5.5 months (22 weeks). In most Latin American countries, the average is over 41 weeks. In Brazil, it is as high as 53 weeks. "And that's even though schools should be the last institutions to close and the first to open - as they are in any humanitarian emergency," they warn.

In Brazil, schools are "partially open". According to the Unesco interactive map, data from July 18, 2021 (the last available date before school holidays) indicate that almost 53 million Brazilian students were affected by school closures during the covid-19 pandemic. Also according to the UNESCO map, countries such as Canada, the United States and Germany also follow the same regime, with schools "partially open". England, France, Portugal, Italy and Spain are examples of places where schools are fully open.

While advocating for the reopening of schools, the Manifesto of UNESCO, Unicef and PAHO/WHO makes it clear that this attitude must be accompanied by health care and protocols that ensure the safety of the school community. "Inside the school, it is essential to adopt all Covid-19 prevention protocols, such as use of masks (according to the recommended for each age), hand hygiene, social distancing, respiratory etiquette, ventilation of spaces, cleaning and disinfection of environments, spacing of tables and organization of classes", says the text.

In addition to protocols, the positioning of the Agencies emphasizes that hybrid education can also be included in this resumption and that the active search of students is "urgent". The Manifesto also recalls that it is essential to ensure the vaccination of frontline workers of essential services such as health, education and social assistance. "In August, a new school semester begins. It is necessary to act now and reopen the schools safely to ensure the right of every child, adolescent and young Brazilian to a quality education", concludes the document.

The Cube Scan, a solution for diagnosis of covid-19 in development at Radiolife, was designed to contribute to the creation of a habit of mass and frequent testing. Because it is a portable device, simple to handle and fast (the result comes out in ten seconds), it could be used daily at the entrance of schools, for example. The same idea could be adopted in other situations such as airports and stadiums or any other closed environment, before the entrance of the frequenters. The Cube Scan is under development in Radiolife and as soon as it receives the authorizations of regulatory agencies, will begin its marketing. Learn more about here.

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