Nicaraguan Government Orders Back to School Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Public School, in Managua. Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

MINED aims to gather 1.7 million students in classrooms despite the health emergency

By Ivette Munguia (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – In the midst of a health emergency caused by the coronavirus, the Ministry of Education (MINED) told 1.7 million students to return to the classrooms on Monday after two weeks of Holy Week holidays, who will join the 57,000 MINED staff that resumed work last Friday.

Alejandro, a teacher from the department of Managua, explained that before the holidays students “were coming very little to classes.” It is for this reason that the MINED directed teachers to go “house to house talking about Covid-19” and in some exceptional cases to phone parents who do not send their children to school.

MINED, for its part, called the directors of private schools for an information session on online education, but Alejandro considers that “it is very difficult” for this to materialize because “not all students have a computer” with internet access.

Jorge Mendoza, Director of the Education and Human Development Forum, regretted “the institutional stubbornness” of the MINED. In his opinion, the return to classes despite the pandemic puts children and teens in public schools in “a state of vulnerability,” because they are exposed to large agglomerations where they can get infected with the coronavirus.

“I believe that it is clearly a regrettable irresponsibility that will unfortunately cost very dearly” to Nicaraguan society, Mendoza stressed. However, he trusts that parents do not expose their children: “Before Holy Week, more than fifty percent of the students had stopped going to classes, we believe that this finally is what is going to prevail in the national consciousness,” he emphasized.

“Active presence” in universities

This Monday was also the return to classes of the public universities belonging to the National Council of Universities (CNU). Said entity agreed “to promote the active presence” of the university community of the different campuses. In this sense, “we call on all students of the different universities to return to their normal activities in our learning centers,” they cite in a statement issued last Friday, after a meeting in which they analyzed the country’s situation in the face of the pandemic.

Call of the Ministry of Education for the return to classes. Courtesy // Confidencial

Likewise, they explain that they will comply “with the preventive measures contained in the country’s health protocol” and call on parents to have confidence “in all the steps that have been developed that demonstrate the sense of responsibility by our national authorities and of the members of the university community.”

This CNU order occurs days after students from 16 organizations across the country made a call not to return to classes, as a preventive measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Furthermore, students reported that they were being threatened with expulsion by university authorities.

“The threats are suspension of enrollment, application of the penalties for absence from classes, expelling students, physical assaults, and dismissal of administrative and teaching staff. These threats have been made by university authorities, others by the same professors and by the members of the pro-government National Union of Students of Nicaragua (UNEN) and the University Center of the National University (CUUN),” explained Jonathan Lopez, member of the University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice (CUDJ).

Empty Classrooms

Before the vacation period, MINED’s overcrowded classrooms looked empty. Some public-school teachers, consulted by Confidencial, said that after the first positive case of Covid-19 in the country was announced, some parents chose not to send their children to classes.

At that time, the MINED had not provided any guidance to its staff on how to deal with the health emergency, consequently teachers did not know what to respond to parents who asked about the alternatives their children had to continue the school year.

Until April 19th, Nicaragua accumulated 10 confirmed cases of Covid-19, two of these have died and 12 people remain under observation by the Ministry of Health.

As expressed by some teachers in this return to school, it is expected that, with the increase in the number of cases, few students will go to the public schools. Some parents told them that they do not care that their children miss the academic year, because in order of importance is health and then study.

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