There is widespread ‘fear’ – among teachers, parents and pupils – following the government’s decision to defer its plan to partially reopen schools in early May.
The proposal for a return to classes of older pupils (in the 10th, 11th and 12th years) will be reviewed at the end of the month. But teachers’ syndicates and parents are “frightened by the possibility”, say reports.
Their concern lies in the fact that the majority of teachers are in ‘at risk groups’ (certainly age-wise, and many have ‘chronic health conditions’). Picking up a near-to-normal routine when the virus is still ripping through society is, in the opinions of syndicate leaders, a very bad idea.
Parents too stress that many teens live in family groups with ‘elderly people’ and will simply put these loved-ones at further risk.
Said Mário Nogueira, president of Fenprof (the national federation of teachers): “We don’t have the conditions to go ahead (with a return to classes). We should continue with distance learning”.
João Dias da Silva, secretary general of the national education federation told reporters after a meeting at the education ministry in Lisbon yesterday that the very notion of a return to school in May “frightens the educational community, and teachers in particular”.
In Dias da Silva’s opinion, none of the end of year exams should go ahead. “Evaluations (final results) will have to be special”, he said – meaning tailored to the constraints of Covid-19.
Fear also has affected STOP, the Syndicate of All Teachers, whose mouthpiece André Pestana cited the deaths already of two teachers, in Matosinhos and Portimão, as a result of the virus.
Jorge Ascensão of the Confederation of Parents Associations claims pupils too are suffering “emotional instability” as a result of the crisis. “Many are at home with their parents and grandparents, They are frightened to return to school as they know it will increase the risk of them taking the virus home”.
In other words, the government may feel a return date in May is expedient, but whether or not it can persuade all the necessary parties is another matter.