Why kids should go back to school: three experts answered the question everyone asks

In Europe, which is going through the beginning of the second wave of the pandemic, restaurants and bars are closed, but schools are open, while in Argentina, schools are closed and restaurants and bars are open (Shutterstock)

With a gradual but sustained decrease in COVID-19 cases in the AMBA area, which at the beginning of this month went from preventive and compulsory social isolation (ASPO) to preventive and compulsory social distancing (DISPO) A period of greater openness and flexibility began in that region.

Thus, the tables in bars and restaurants on the sidewalk were joined by some in the interiors of the gastronomic premises, amateur sports activities were enabled for up to ten people -such as football 5-, outdoor social gatherings in the private sphere , and even reopened the Palermo Hippodrome and the Puerto Madero Casino. But nevertheless, the return to face-to-face classes at all levels is plagued with more doubts than certainties.

It is paradoxical that In Europe, which is going through the beginning of the second wave of the pandemic, restaurants and bars are closed, but schools are open, while in Argentina, schools are closed and restaurants and bars are open. A priori, it seems unlikely that the two policies will be successful at the same time.

In this context, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned this week about a possible “lost generation” of children, as the COVID-19 disease threatens to cause “irreversible” damage to the education, nutrition and well-being of young people around the world.

“The future of a whole generation is in danger”, insisted the executive director of Unicef, Henrietta Fore, and recalled that “children must always come first”, for which she urged governments and the private sector to “listen to minors and give priority to their needs” .

The report indicates that, as of November 3, children and adolescents under 20 years of age accounted for one in nine COVID-19 infections in 87 countries – those with data disaggregated by age -, which represents 11% of the 25.7 million infections reported by those nations.

Unicef ​​considered that “schools are not the main transmission factor in the community” and that “children are more likely to contract the virus outside of the school setting”, so “the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them”.

For López, “schools must accompany the general closure, but closure is not justified per se” (Shutterstock)

With the body agreed the World Health Organization (WHO), which defended the need to keep schools open during the coronavirus pandemic, and considered that lockdowns can be avoided if protection measures are increased.

“We must ensure education for our children”said the director for Europe of the WHO, Hans Kluge, while emphasizing that children and adolescents are not the main drivers of contagion and that the closure of schools is not effective.

Before consulting Infobae, the pediatric infectious disease doctor Eduardo López (MN 37586) highlighted that “It has been shown that closing schools early is useful at the beginning of the quarantine, but when one begins to reopen, the impact of opening schools is very low from the point of view of transmission of the virus”. “In the openings, the schools are not the great sources of transmission; it makes little sense for them to remain closed in order to prevent the spread of the disease, ”insisted the specialist who is part of the committee of experts that advises the Government.

Regarding the much discussed role of children in the spread of the virus, the pediatric epidemiologist Angela Gentile (MN 49908) assured that “they are not the biological bombs that were once thought”. “They are not super contagious, they spread according to the viral load and to the clinical condition; it is a different mechanism from influenza, since when cases are mild or asymptomatic, the viral load is directly related to the clinical form ”, explained the head of the Epidemiology Department of the Children’s Hospital Ricardo Gutiérrez.

“It has been proven that (minors) are infected and contagious, but even some authors state that They are infected from adults, so in that regard we should demystify the role of children in the pandemic Lopez pointed out. Many countries have returned to partial closures and did not close schools again, since it is known that in fact more are infected from adults in the family environment than they can infect adults ”.

In that sense, he emphasized that “It is more likely that the teacher is infected from another adult in their daily lives than from children”.

“The feeling is that some private schools are doing a restart with few students, which does not help neither the socialization nor the teaching-learning mechanism” (Shutterstock)

And after insisting that “schools must accompany the general closure, but closure is not justified per se”, the specialist highlighted: “There are no countries that are doing what is done in Argentina, where places with risk of accumulation of people such as casinos or gyms are opened, and yet schools, which have a protocol that can be carried out in courtyards, with bubbles of 10 / 12 people and who should maintain a regularity from here to the end of the cycle of two or three times a week, there are institutions that propose a re-linking of once a week, every 15 days ”.

“The feeling is that some private schools are doing a restart with few students, which does not help neither the socialization nor the teaching-learning mechanism -I consider-. A reintegration with only one day a week is proposed, which does not make much sense; there is a lot of declamation but little effectiveness in the reintegration of the boys in the educational field ”.

Andrea Abadi is a child and adolescent psychiatrist (MN 76165) and director of the Department of Children and Adolescents of INECO and before the consultation of Infobae, considered that the return to the presence in schools “is essential in a double sense: on the one hand, for children to reconnect with a routine, which is essential for them, and on the other, because the way in which a child internalizes the contents is in the ‘one to one’ with the teachers”.

A screen with 20 faces is not a teaching that calls for participation and allows generating critical thinking the expert considered. Virtual teaching is rich if you know how to take advantage of it, and although the coeducational training that many are already doing is going to be interesting, in any case, I think that the boys have to go back to the institution’s instance ”.

For her, “it is necessary to raise clear fees for the return, with numbers of infections and other indicators established for the school to open or close.”

About the 2021 school year, the vaccine and the protocols

“The teacher is more likely to get it from another adult in their daily lives than from children” (Shutterstock)

On more than one occasion, the general secretary of the Unified Union of Education Workers of Buenos Aires (Suteba), Roberto Baradel, made reference to the fact that the conditions for returning to classes in the province of Buenos Aires were not met. “Until the coronavirus vaccine is found, the face-to-face classes are going to be a complication”; “You have to continue taking care of life,” he was able to express.

In this regard, the specialists consulted cleared up some doubts.

On the one hand, despite the fact that it was already clear from what has been said that minors do not belong to risk groups nor do they have a preponderant role in the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Gentile clarified that “Boys are not only not going to have priority in the vaccination, but they are not going to be vaccinated because the trials have not included pediatric patients”. “If the safety and efficacy is good in adults, the boys are only included; there are no Phase III studies in the world that include pediatric patients, “he said, while considering that” logic indicates to start vaccinating in a staggered manner to reduce circulation.

“Of all the vaccines that are being studied, we do not know if they protect against severe or mild forms of the disease, as well as what the efficacy is, data are still lacking,” he said. The influenza vaccine, for example, is known to be excellent in protecting against hospitalization and death, but in COVID-19 we still do not have these answers ”.

And after pointing out that “There is an international agreement to vaccinate health personnel, the elderly and people with underlying diseases in a staggered manner”, the epidemiologist insisted that “we must wait for the final results of Phases III, beyond these interim analyzes that became known.”

Discarded the children of a first stage of immunization, for López, “To think that face-to-face classes can be resumed after teachers are vaccinated is a misconception, since most teachers are young people who are not at higher risk”. And while he considered that “teachers are essential personnel”, he stressed that “there are scales within these and that priority should be given to health personnel, security personnel, teachers and firefighters, in that order.”

“A screen with 20 faces is not a teaching that calls for participation and allows generating critical thinking” (Shutterstock)

“It is possible to initially decide to vaccinate essential personnel, and it is known that with the first dose the vast majority will be protected and with the second the protection will be above 90%; so if we vaccinate these personnel in January / February, in March they can start classes in person without risk “, raised López.

Gentile stated that “a mixed virtuality and face-to-face system could be viable at the beginning of the school year, and gradually, according to the epidemiological situation, to increase face-to-face”.

The specialist was part of the dialogue table in which the framework protocol that the Ministry of Education lowered to the jurisdictions was established and highlighted that “each jurisdiction was presenting its protocols until the conditions were met for each one to make its openings with his own protocol on the given guidelines ”, he explained regarding the formation of the distancing and bubble patterns that were established.

Regarding the mandatory use of the chinstrap that most establishments propose, even in outdoor spaces and for children under three years of age, Gentile pointed out that “The Argentine Society of Pediatrics says that it is contraindicated under three years, and the protocol speaks of from six years, but each school also arms its provisions.”

“I think schools are being careful because it was so difficult to start,” he said. This is like a learning model for everyone, many of the experiences I think will gradually adjust ”.

Meanwhile López, after assuring that “a three-year-old boy cannot be put on a mask,” he elaborated: “The use of the mask depends on the age; under five years should not use and in children under three years is directly contraindicated by the WHO ”.

The aforementioned Unicef ​​report finds that COVID-19 further widened the educational gaps between rich and poor families in Latin America and the Caribbean. The new ones show that the percentage of children and adolescents who do not receive any form of education in the region has skyrocketed dramatically, from 4% to 18% in recent months. UN projections reveal that the pandemic could put up to three million more children out of school in the region.

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