Mexican in-person schooling resumes nationwide after 18-month hiatus

Mexico City, Aug 30 (EFE).- In-person schooling resumed across nearly all parts of Mexico on Monday after 18 months of distance-learning-only instruction, although some families have criticized the move and fear it could exacerbate the country’s weeks-long third Covid-19 wave.

“We’re returning to in-person classes in the country today (the start of the 2021-2022 school year). It’s a very important day,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said in his daily press briefing at Mexico City’s National Palace.

The driving force behind the policy shift, the head of state said the resumption of in-person schooling was coordinated among teachers, parents and authorities, adding that his home was affected because he had to wake up his son Jesus Ernesto at 6 am and help see him off to school.

At the onset of the coronavirus crisis in Mexico in March 2020, public schools and universities closed their campuses and required their 33 million students to study via distance learning (television, Internet or radio).

But despite a recent spike in coronavirus infections in Mexico, where since the start of the pandemic 3.3 million confirmed cases have been reported and 258,000 deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 (fourth-most worldwide after the United States, Brazil and India), AMLO ordered the reopening of schools due to concerns about the closures’ effect on young people’s development.

Authorities estimate that 5.2 million students at all educational levels have dropped out of school since the switch to distance-learning-only instruction.

Lopez Obrador said “it’s been shown that children are at less risk” of contracting the coronavirus than adults and noted that most teachers are vaccinated.

Even so, he added that the schools will strictly adhere to Covid-19 protocols and said a return to in-person instruction at the start of the 2021-2022 school year remains voluntary.

“Most people are going to participate because school is irreplaceable. It’s a second home. Not only do you acquire knowledge. It’s a place for coming together,” AMLO said.

During his press briefing, the president spoke in real time with authorities at different schools in Mexico City and the states of Yucatan, Chiapas, Mexico, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Chihuahua, Puebla, Aguascalientes, Campeche and Veracruz.

Although schools in some states took advantage of dips in their coronavirus case loads and reopened schools during the previous school year, Monday marks the first nearly nationwide reopening.

Only three of Mexico’s 32 states have opted not to resume in-person schooling for the time being: two of them (Baja California Sur and Sinaloa) because of the recent passage of Hurricane Nora and one (Michoacan) due to the pandemic.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a close ally of Lopez Obrador’s, said in remarks at a local high school that between 90 percent and 95 percent of the capital’s schools reopened on Monday.

“I’m extending this invitation to all parents. An adequate operation is in place to ensure a safe return to classrooms in Mexico City,” the mayor said.

Although in-person instruction resumed in the western state of Jalisco, Gov. Enrique Alfaro asked the president to provide assistance after 90 schools were “very damaged” over the weekend by Hurricane Nora. EFE


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