Student Experience

The Start of the School Year in a Pandemic



On February 1st, classes began in Nicaragua. The government announced the admission of 1,800,000 boys, girls, and adolescents to schools run by the Ministry of Education. It is an important moment for Nicaragua, but fundamentally for young people who, during 2020, attended school irregularly, and others who did not attend. The government also announced that private schools were given permission to study online, and also announced that there will be schools that will allow semi-face-to-face access, and other schools will start with a permanent presence.  Although school has already started, it is a fact that the effect of the pandemic in the 2020 school year will have implications for the education system in 2021. I will cite three of the many examples: 

First, it is possible that there will be an increase in school dropouts or dropouts since the attachment of students to the school can reduce in the absence of exposure to teachers who motivate them. Dropout rates are likely to be accompanied by an increase in child and adolescent labor. To avoid this, teachers should have close contact with their students, increasing visits from home to home, or either through the use of WhatsApp. This is important to provide students with the feeling that the link with the school has not been broken. Also, a basic food package could also be provided to at-risk families who have very limited resources. 

Second, is the low level of learning and inequalities with the greatest negative effects on low-income students as inequality in learning increases This is mainly due to students from more affluent families having more support to continue learning at home. For this, alternatives could be created such as: extending the school year, or extending the class day, or considering intensifying the school reinforcement program that was already being applied in the MINED schools. 

I do not propose online education in a decisive way, since we know that in Nicaragua only 30 percent of the population has access to the internet. This should invite reflection on the best way to use technology for educational purposes inside and outside of school. The coordinator of associations that works with children, without being from the government, has recognized the difficulties that the national educational system has to teach classes online as private schools do, since not all the population has access to Internet service. 

Third, an example of implications that could happen in Nicaragua is the closure of some private schools, since these depend on the payments of parents,  many of which have reduced income because they lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

UNICEF, which is the United Nations Fund for Children, has made a global call that “there will be schools and that will try to reduce all possible risks, with the understanding that children are not those who have increased infections by COVID, but by the adult population, young and old.” UNICEF refers to the fact that “not attending school has a great economic impact on the life of the country.” This is due to a large generation of students who would delay their entry into the world of work, and that generates great economic problems for the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has explained the important requirements that must be put into practice to prevent getting sick from COVID when entering school, and above all, preventing the contagion of teachers when teaching classes. The main recommendations have been the following: the use of masks permanently in the school classroom, maintaining social distancing of at least 1 meter between desks, guaranteeing hand washing, increasing ventilation, and maintaining cleanliness of the classrooms.

In conclusion, back to school presents great challenges for students, family, community, and teachers. Let’s hope that many of the lesser served communities do not fall too far behind.

Categories: Student Experience

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