Parents fight for resumption of in-person schooling in Argentina

By Veronica Dalto

Buenos Aires, Apr 27 (EFE).- A new social movement emerged in Argentina in the wake of last year’s coronavirus-triggered school closures.

Known as “Padres Organizados” (Organized Parents), this group of men and women have been campaigning for a resumption of face-to-face education on social networking sites, through a lobbying effort and with demonstrations on city streets.

The initiative began in July and August 2020 when a group of six parents, most of them from Buenos Aires city, observed during their Twitter chats that although children in other countries were returning to their classrooms Argentina was making no steps in that direction.

“Most of them had young children, and it was very difficult to manage remote learning” at home, Maria Jose Navajas, a founding mother who has one child in kindergarten and another in high school, told Efe.

After initially trying to drum up support on social media, these parents sent an open letter to the authorities in which they argued that the resumption of in-person schooling was an urgent priority, she said, “not only because of the evidence that it was possible but also because of the children’s emotional and psychological health.”

“And even more so in a country like Argentina with a level of poverty and social exclusion” that was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Education took center stage in the public debate, and the range of topics discussed went beyond the immediate issue of a resumption of in-person instruction.

“Although the focal point was face-to-face (schooling), (the debate) made us confront a bigger problem from previous years concerning the situation in Argentine education,” Navajas said, adding that issue is of special significance for her as a graduate of public schools.

Whereas public education once was a source of pride for Argentines and served as a path for improving one’s station in life, that process of social mobility has been interrupted in recent times.

By inserting themselves in the educational policy debate and enlisting the support of doctors, lawyers, educators and other professionals, Padres Organizados, which now has a presence in the capital and 20 of the country’s 23 provinces, succeeded in modifying the discourse of the national government and achieved a key victory when in-person instruction resumed in Buenos Aires city on Feb. 17.

Even so, amid a second wave of the coronavirus, President Alberto Fernandez’s administration ordered the closure of schools once again until April 30 in Buenos Aires’ metropolitan area, the country’s most populous.

Parents responded by taking their struggle for in-person schooling to the streets, holding rallies that also attracted protesters from outside the organization and also organizing protests at shuttered schools.

Thousands of people also signed a open letter to the Supreme Court, which is hearing a challenge filed by the city of Buenos Aires against the suspension of in-person classes.

The hope in 2021 is to achieve the greatest possible amount of in-person instruction and ensure that clear criteria are established for future school closures, Navajas said.

“So we really fulfill the promise to only close (schools) as a last resort” and ensure that the time limits for those closures are very clearly defined. EFE


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