Just over a week ago, on Friday, August 20, President Nicolás Maduro confirmed what had already been looming for several months: that face-to-face classes will resume in Venezuela this coming October. He said that for the purposes the 7 + 7 method will be used as the first security measure, that is, that it will work under a hybrid modality, and that priority vaccination for teaching staff will be deepened. It is bittersweet news, but at the same time encouraging for families, the school community and especially for those who are the main subjects of the measure: the students.
Girls and boys constitute the population segment that has paid the highest price in terms of socialization restrictions in this period that humanity has been mired in the pandemic. With the return to school, the anguish of at least 17 months of confinement is relieved, but concern about infections is also rekindled, especially in the context of the arrival of the Delta variant, which seems to be less condescending with the young population. Is it worth the risk? Or is the danger to mental health and to education proper in the long term greater?
The quarantine has guaranteed a minimum rate of infected children, but it has also affected the daily life of this population in a way unprecedented in contemporary history. And not just when it comes to socializing. It is a fact that inequalities have been accentuated in the teaching-learning process. The internet connection; the availability of mothers, fathers or other relatives to help or not with homework; The material conditions that surround the family, as well as the capacity of each school and each teacher to be able to offer the school program to the students are determining situations.
We investigated documentary sources, mainly Unesco recommendations, and divided the corpus into three major themes that encompass the leading concerns surrounding this unusual return to school. They are: the problems to adapt to the “new routine” in the “new normal”, the measures to minimize the risk of contagion and spread of the covid-19 and finally the emotional and sentimental preparation as well as the psychological first aid to attend the cases of girls, boys and adolescents with anxiety or difficulties in adapting to this situation that can be overwhelming.
For many, this is the ideal opportunity to thoroughly review the hegemonic educational model and reinvent it, so that it adapts to the world we live in, and especially that we dream of. Meanwhile, respecting processes, addressing fears and promoting creativity as a tool of resistance in the face of overwhelming reality are priorities.
“Just as parents and caregivers supported at the time the transition of children and young people to be at home during Covid-19, they can help them prepare to feel healthy and ready to go back to school,” says the document entitled Safe Return to School: A Guide to Practice.
For some families, the most challenging thing will be to have to get up early again, for others to resume the routine of taking and looking for the children at school. Other moms wonder how their babies will be able to adapt to the school regime when they spent a year and a half at home barefoot and eating after hours. The key is not to wait until the first day of school.
Progressively resuming schedules and habits at home will make the crash less overwhelming. Recovering the opportune moment to sleep and wake up from an hour to an hour every day or every two days until reaching the necessary time is a good tactic to regulate the biological clock. For example, if the time needed to wake up to go to school is 6:00 a.m., but it currently happens at 10:00 a.m., every day or every other day the girl or boy can be awakened an hour before until arrive at the desired schedule and then anchor it.
The same with bedtime. And it not only applies to students but also to family members related to the school routine.
At this point, it is difficult for any girl or boy, at least in urban spaces, to be unfamiliar with the biosecurity measures necessary to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Social distance, the use of a mask and frequent hand washing have become the new prerogatives of daily life and the child population knows this by heart.
However, UNESCO emphasizes that it is important to remind children of the importance of maintaining strict attention to these measures, but not from the perspective of fear but from the possibility of being agents of change to prevent the spread of the virus and save lives. It is not about protecting yourself from others, but about protecting others. Seen from solidarity it is easier to understand.
It is also important that, as far as possible, girls and boys carry antibacterial gel in their backpack and also at least one additional mask to have in the event of an accident with which they wear from home.
On the other hand, the school will have to take measures regarding the contact. The Unesco manual suggests, for example, substituting sports such as soccer or volleyball for others of less proximity such as aerobics or running, and always outdoors. In fact, don’t skimp on using open spaces for as many school activities as possible. Likewise, the administration of the number of students per room, the ventilation of the classrooms, evaluating the real need for the use of air conditioning, and establishing a protocol before the exchange or loan of supplies and manipulation of tools or resources of common use, as well as the mechanisms for managing food.
In the sentimental
All moms and dads are impressed with that devastating day when they had to leave their little baby at preschool for the first time. This return to school can relive that moment, both for representatives and for girls and boys, and even in some adolescents.
Accompanying the overwhelming feelings of a return to school after a permanent closeness with the family and in the safety of the home is vital so that the process is as less traumatic as possible. On the other hand, it is necessary to address the emotional shock of meeting friends and friends after so long but without being able to touch or hug them, and only speak to them through the mask. We must also take into account the students whose feelings are redoubled by the loss of close family members.
For a re-entry as smooth as possible, Unesco recommends first of all sharing with the boys and girls the full information on when and how the school will reopen, and if necessary using different formats to communicate it — drawings, songs, stories— to ensure that the messages are understood, and above all to generate emotions of positive expectation. Having the information and knowing that there will be no surprises is an empowering and confident feeling, even in childhood.
“Remind children and young people of the positive reasons for going back to school. They will be able to play with their friends, see their teachers, and continue learning new things. Remind them of key people they can turn to at the school if they need support. Ask children and young people how they feel about going back to school. Assure children that all feelings are normal ”, says the manual.
In this sense, continues: “Take time to comfort your child and respond to their needs. No matter how unrealistic their fears are, remember that their feelings are real and terrifying. Help your son or daughter understand their emotions, ”says.
It is also important that the family and teaching staff work on a key basis. In normal situations it is challenging to put mothers and teachers in agreement, and now it will surely be more than ever, but also more than ever it is vital. That the girl or the boy have divergent instructions at home and at school about situations such as sharing breakfast, lending their crayons, wearing a mask or playing a sport at recess can ruin all the effort for a calm return to the classroom and generate stress in the child.
Going back to school is always a source of joy, even in the most difficult circumstances. The functioning of schools speaks of societies and the educational process in general is activator of dynamics that signify the daily life of the population as a systemic body. So more than ever this re-entry into the classroom takes on meaning.
Even in Venezuela we are waiting for the specific guidelines that will indicate how this return will unfold, however, working from now on and as a family, the next change in routine will guarantee a harmonious process.