ROME – The Ambrosoni family in the central part of town have a computer, a terribly slow internet and three children in elementary school, which makes home learning a challenge. When schools closed last March, children essentially stopped learning, the family said. And the family doesn’t want that to happen again.
“During the first lockdown in the spring, each child had to sacrifice a third of their school day so that their siblings could also attend classes,” mother Gabriella, who is still on leave from the last lockdown, told the Daily Beast. “Which means they all lost the last part of the school year.” And with Father Angelo working at a restaurant – now subject to new restrictions and likely new closures – buying two more computers is just not on the cards at the moment.
The Ambrosoni family’s struggle is reflected across Europe, where keeping schools open during new lockdowns in the second wave of the pandemic has been a priority. Not only does smaller housing and uneven infrastructure make learning at home difficult, but in many southern European countries like Italy, where childcare is scarce and grandparents as caregivers are now banned due to COVID concerns, schools play a vital role as parents at work.
But as EU education ministers fight to keep schools open, experts across the continent are warning that while young people typically don’t experience the same consequences from COVID-19, schools are likely contributing to the rapid spread of the disease. virus. In Bloomberg News, Italian economic analyst Ferdinando Giugliano says the biggest dilemma for governments during Wave 2 is what to do about schools. “Closing them could lead to a ‘lost generation’ of learners and make it more difficult for parents to return to work,” he says. “Keeping them open could spread the virus further.”
So far, the majority of European governments have struggled to find this balance, and without a centralized European policy, solutions are literally everywhere.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide lockdown on Wednesday evening after his country surpassed more than 50,000 new cases in a single 24-hour period over the weekend, but schools will mostly remain open. “I have decided that we have to return to detention,” he said Wednesday evening. “The whole of the territory is concerned.”
The same scenario is playing out in Germany, which is also subject to new lockdowns for all leisure activities. Again, keeping schools open is a priority both to ensure that children whose families cannot afford multiple computers or who have spotty internet connections will not have to sacrifice education. of their children. Addressing the nation to announce new measures on Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said “social sacrifices must be made” to ensure schools remain open. “We will do everything to ensure that our children are not the losers in the pandemic,” she said. “School and daycare should be the most important things.”
In Italy, which is also subject to new restrictions until November 24, including the closure of gymnasiums and theaters and the early closure of bars and restaurants at 6 p.m., nurseries and primary schools are also given priority, while that high schools must now teach 75% of their curriculum online and stagger the entry into schools to ensure good social distance. However, many Italian high school students stream their lessons to smartphones rather than computers, questioning the quality of the education they receive. And the policy is not national. The southern region of Puglia ordered the closure of all schools on Thursday after the emergence of several groups linked to elementary schools. And the Campania region, where Naples has become a major hot spot this time after having few cases in the first wave, has failed in its closures, first closing all schools in a lockdown, then opening preschools and elementary schools as parents struggled. to find an adequate daycare without them being open.
Other European countries have certainly lost the battle to continue learning in person. The Czech Republic, which has one of the highest contagion rates in Europe after largely avoiding the problems of the first wave, closed its schools last week. “I apologize to the school principals. I apologize to parents for the continued uncertainty, ”Czech Education Minister Robert Plaga said during the announcement. “But you have to do it and do it quickly.”
Several studies have shown mixed results as to whether learning in person leads to the spread of the virus. A study carried out in Germany by the Institute for Labor Economics in Bonn found no correlation between the opening of its schools in September and the rise in cases at the end of October. Rather, a similar study in Italy found a direct correlation, with over 2,800 outbreaks in a school month starting in mid-September.
A widely used database of global events maintained by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine identified very few incidents in schools. “Schools should be important as so many networks come together [there]- with children, parents and social life ”, said Gwen Knight, Project Director Financial Times. “But the signal doesn’t seem very strong. We struggle to find direct evidence of transmission in schools, but we don’t do enough testing.
As the second wave envelops Europe, most government leaders are trying to keep schools open for as long as possible, although most admit that, given how quickly the virus has spread, winter break will almost begin. definitely for students much earlier than usual.
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