La Croix: Nurseries, schools, colleges and high schools will remain open during this new period of confinement, with a health protocol. How do you receive this news?
Rodrigo Arenas: It is a relief for the parents of students. None wanted to relive the home school nightmare as we experienced it during the first confinement, with its share of failures in terms of pedagogical continuity and what have been called “dropouts”.
Now, the question of the means remains unresolved. The only existing reinforced health protocol is that of the month of July and the means were not there to apply it. Teachers must be hired on a massive scale to reduce class sizes so as to respect social distancing. It also means using third places, premises that have been identified by municipalities and local communities, and making ephemeral sinks available to children. All this was not mentioned by the President of the Republic but we do not imagine that it is not by the Minister of National Education. Nothing has been said about extracurricular activities either.
Under these conditions, could parents be tempted not to send their children to school at the start of the school year?
RA: We do not feel a movement of civil disobedience or parental strike on the ground. It would not be reasonable, because children have to go to school. Teachers have still not been trained in distance education, neither have parents and students. But we are still with the sword of Damocles on our heads: the possible closure of schools. How to go to school if we completely reconfigure the country? We must also prepare for this eventuality.
Either way, teachers will be on the front line …
RA: They will be there with the extracurricular staff and all the adults who work at the school are in first year. It is always said that children are less infected and are less sick. This does not mean that they do not infect adults. We tend to deny this reality. Teachers are sick like everyone else and the question of their number remains central.
Universities and higher education establishments will be closed, with online courses. Is there not a risk of dropping out among students, even if they are supposed to be more independent?
RA: This risk does exist. To keep students on an educational path and to be useful to society, we suggest hiring them as educational assistants for teachers. Rather than leaving them in precariousness, with odd jobs that will disappear, it is not delusional to make them repeat teachers. They will be more effective than parents.