RIO DE JANEIRO — Public education professors in Rio de Janeiro are on the way back to the classroom, even as the city approaches 140,000 COVID-19 cases.
Initially, professors returned without students to help prepare. Only students in important years, such as ninth grade and the senior year, returned to class.
“Since they are older and more mature we will not be concerned about always reminding them to respect the measures,” Khezya Barreto, a ninth-grade professor, said. “We will be able to develop a little bit of the content they need.”
In Barreto’s school, they have 10 students separated in the classroom. Each student received three masks, water bottles (water fountains are not allowed), hand sanitizer, and an emergency snack instead of lunch in the cafeteria.
For Mari Angela Molina, an education coordinator at Escola Municipal Roquete Pinto, a school in Rio de Janeiro for pre-school students to third grade has only allowed the return of professors, and being back in class is worrying.
“I think it’s premature, especially since we have the return of the growth in the number of cases of COVID,” Molina said.
She is uncomfortable with the return because all employees, including her, have a life outside of work in which they may be exposing themselves to the virus, considering “a trip to the market can be a risk.”
“You view your co-worker and employees as people very close to you. This often takes me out of focus, because I have to distance myself from them and I end up getting too close,” Molina said.
There is also a concern the younger students will not have the self-control of older students, potentially touching or sharing objects and bring the virus home to relatives, teachers, or staff.
Professors received protective personal equipment, but it is not enough. Molina’s co-worker, Sandra Elena Reis, has more reasons to be uncomfortable with the return. She is part of the risk group and would have direct contact with kids since she is a teacher.
“I’m in the risk group twice, I’m 60 years old and I’m diabetic, from what I see, no school has the infrastructure,” Reis said.
She said distributing masks and hand sanitizers do not guarantee security, especially because cases are going up again and the return was announced abruptly.
“We value life, life first, school year – as they say – we can recover, but a life we cannot,” Reis said.