The urgency of mandatory classroom education – 11/07/2021 – Opinion

The Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that Brazil needs to review its priorities. Despite the evidence that education promotes social, economic and human development, the country was slow to realize that it was unacceptable to keep schools closed for so long.

Over the last year and a half, there were many battles to convince public agents and society that it was imperative to see the damage to our children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. Damage not only to learning, but also to food security, emotional support and social interaction.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, we started the face-to-face return to classes in February, just over a month after the change of government. We study international best practices and draw up a strict sanitary protocol, approved by the City’s Scientific Committee, an independent body formed by renowned experts. The return took place gradually, as schools were adapting to the required sanitary and infrastructure conditions. Currently, all our schools are working in person, without rotation.

We also recently announced the decision to make attendance to classroom classes mandatory in Rio. It is the continuation of a process and represents a step towards guaranteeing the right to education. And it is not possible to fully guarantee this without bringing into the classroom the students who were left behind during the long period of school closings. Accepting this exclusion cannot be a choice. One of the motivations for making the return mandatory is precisely to rescue these students and welcome them, creating the ideal conditions for learning and broad development.

And there is no time to lose: in our municipal network alone, 25,000 students are not interacting with the school remotely or going in person. We are not going to sit back and think this is normal. Every child out of school is a tragedy. After all, if it’s not school for our children, what will it be? For many, what remains is the street, organized crime and child labor.

Given the magnitude of the challenge, we implemented different active search initiatives. A good example is the partnership with UNICEF to identify absent students and the causes of school dropout. But, without a doubt, the defining strategy to rescue the bond takes place at school and is led by tireless principals and teachers, through the mobilization of those responsible, students and social organizations. No student can be left behind.

One of the lessons learned in the process of returning to 100% in-person classes is that constant dialogue is as important as planning. It is essential to generate trust to involve society. Furthermore, open and responsible communication is crucial. There can be no doubt that the school is the most suitable space, in any respect, for a child to be. In the present moment and always. School is a place of learning, security, coexistence and affection. It’s the priority.

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