A working group of paediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses wants the schools to reopen as normal on 1 September, full-time and for all children in primary and secondary education. That is important for the children, they write in an open letter, because distance learning alone will not get you there. “The school is extremely important for the development of children and young people,” they say. That the schools can open safely, the youth camps this summer prove, the experts say.
The start of the new school year will be decided in the coming days. This will be done in consultation with the educational field and the medical experts of the GEES. But for the Belgian Pediatric Covid-19 Task Force, a working group of pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses, it is already clear: there must be a complete reopening of the schools, so that all children can go to school full-time again. The Task Force writes this in an open letter (see bottom of this article).
The school offer that was developed during the first corona wave was not optimal, write the medical children’s experts. An operation of 50 and even 80 percent is not enough, and the same applies to distance learning.
Because school is more than learning, says child psychiatrist Sofie Crommen in “The morning” on Radio 1. “At school, children and young people find a stimulating, safe and connecting environment. School also provides a day structure, a time allocation to young people. At school children make social contacts, they can play and they are stimulated creatively. ”
Education at school can be perfectly safe, write the children’s experts, just look at this summer’s youth camps. There were “only a limited number of infections”. In addition, scientific research has since shown that the transmission of Covid-19 by children is limited. In short, there is “no medical reason why a complete restart of the schools should not be possible”.
Of course, the general hygiene measures must also apply at school. However, the medical child experts argue for a “coordination” of two measures “to the target group and the context at school”: the one and a half meters distance would not apply everywhere, and mouth masks would be mandatory at specific times for those older than 12.
There is no zero risk, the doctors and psychologists conclude, “but the balance between the benefits and the risks of going to school during corona times justifies taking the cards of children and young people and investing in their well-being and future. Today’s children are the nurses, entrepreneurs, bakers, politicians and scientists of tomorrow. ”
Community education supports the appeal of doctors and psychologists. “It is extremely important that we can get our young people to school so that they can receive the necessary support from the teachers, but there is also the social component,” said top woman Raymonda Verdyck. “Being present at school together with friends in order to be able to guarantee learning to live together.”
Verdyck keeps a close eye on things and wants to be sure that the risk of infection remains limited. “Unfortunately, if we find that health and safety are at risk, it means that secondary school students will not be able to attend school full-time and we will have to switch back to distance learning there.”
Next Friday, the educational umbrella organizations will meet with the Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) and the trade unions.