Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pediatricians ask for schools to reopen. Teachers want to be heard

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Manuel de Almeida / Lusa

The Portuguese Society of Pediatrics defends the urgent reopening of schools, especially in pre-school education and in the 1st and 2nd cycles of basic education, calling attention to the consequences of the closure in the development of children.

In a joint position, the Portuguese Society of Pediatrics (SPP), the board of the College of Pediatrics of the Portuguese Medical Association and the National Commission for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, consider it urgent that decision makers consider the reopening of schools and integration of children in activities suited to their real needs.

“The approach to normal may have to be phased, with continuous and adequate assessment, but has to be fast and programmed consistently“, They refer.

For those entities, the urgency is greater in the pre-school education and in the first and second cycles of the basic education, either because of the important role that contact with educators and other children has in the psychomotor development of basic skills, or because of the greater impact on functioning in society and the lower risk of community contagiousness.

“The opening of schools to the rest of the teaching phases may have to follow a gradual progression, through teaching cycles, leaving the most different ones, in which non-classroom teaching methods pose less difficulties, for later. But let us not forget the need for socialization of adolescents, whose mental health is at risk ”, they stress.

Those entities consider that the plans defined for the beginning of the present academic year proved effective, with good adherence by school professionals and students, with no relevant outbreaks originating in educational establishments.

Therefore, they argue that the strengthening of epidemiological surveillance, by the health services, will allow to minimize the risk associated with the opening of schools, ensuring that a targeted action will allow the control of the spread of the disease, without it becoming necessary to return to more aggressive measures.

“Children at high social risk, who have moments of normality, security and adequate food at school, are even more prone to the risk caused by distance”

In the joint position, they recall that “from the beginning it was found that children were little affected, presenting as a rule mild illness, with very sporadic cases of severe disease, and it was soon realized that, in contrast to other more well-known viral diseases, they contributed little to the spread of the disease ”.

For these entities, the closure of schools and the mandatory stay at home of children of all age groups directly contribute to the effects that the covid-19 disease has on them in terms of development, learning, behaviors, routines and family and social relationships.

“Children at high social risk, who have moments of normality, security and adequate food at school, are even more prone to the risk caused by distance. We remember that it is often from the school that the first alert starts that initiates investigation and protective measures“, They refer.

In the understanding of the SPP, the College of Pediatrics of the Order of Doctors and the National Commission for Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health, all changes and social inequalities and associated risks will have a direct effect on the life expectancy of these children and on the capacity evolution of society itself in future years.

Teachers and directors want to be consulted

The National Association of Directors of Clusters and Public Schools (ANDAEP) and the National Federation of Teachers (Fenprof) told the Economic News that the government should listen to union organizations before making decisions about the deconfinition plan.

“The Government has refused to take the initiative to call on trade union organizations to hear them on issues that have to do with prevention and health security,” he said. Luis Lobo, from Fenprof.

For Fenprof, it is worrying to talk about going back to school when “there is no indication on the part of the Government that on return there will be different procedures than those that existed at the beginning of the school year, that is, increasing the distance between students, reducing the number of students per class, missing schedules ”.

Fenprof further argues that the reopening of schools must be well planned to avoid “the debacle that has already taken place” in January when students returned to schools.

“The Government continues to say that it was not because schools were functioning that the epidemiological situation in the country worsened, we have no data that would allow us to make that statement. On the contrary, because the percentage of students that has been tested recently gives a higher percentage of infection than the national average, which means that contagion is greater than outside schools”He concluded.

Already Filinto Lima, president of ANDAEP, affirmed that it would be “positive for the specialists to have a more global view of the situation, to later transmit their position to the Prime Minister”. On the return, Filinto Lima considers that it will be “phased, gradual, it will start with the children, therefore, with the youngest, the crèches and the first cycle”.

The president of ANDAEP considers that the return “must be accompanied by some measures, such as increase testing and the General Directorate of Health should prioritize the vaccines to teachers and staff who are currently working in schools ”.

This Tuesday, the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, admitted that “the possibility of vaccinating teachers and school officials is being analyzed”. However, he also said that the pandemic situation in Portugal is “far from peaceful” and, therefore, considers that it is not yet time to talk about the reopening of schools.

Maria Campos Maria Campos, ZAP // Lusa

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