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Partial re-entry into Belgian schools

At 8 a.m. on May 18, a minority of Belgian students will return to class with a battery of measures to protect them from covid-19. The unions are on the lookout.

Max HELLEFF

At 8 a.m. on May 18, a minority of Belgian students will return to class with a battery of measures to protect them from covid-19. The unions are on the lookout.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – Last April, the Belgian education unions warned:No return to school without security for everyone Parent and student representative organizations followed suit. The whole sector was worried about a return which would not be done under the best sanitary conditions. And would be especially concerned to allow parents to return to work.

A month later, the context changed. If the unions are not completely appeased, most teachers should be present at the station Monday, May 18 for a partial back-to-school. One week before the start of the new school year in Luxembourg, young people in crèches and basic education. Each school has put in place an impressive array of hygiene and social distancing measures to stop the coronavirus. Masks have been distributed to them – sometimes in extremis.

Last week, the General Secretariat for Catholic Education (Segec), which brings together all the organizing powers of schools in the Catholic network in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, recommended that classes only be resumed on May 19 and not the day before. In question: the uncertainty reigning over the arrival of masks in schools in the southern part of the country. Unlike his counterparts in the Flemish and German-speaking communities, the French-speaking minister-president Pierre-Yves Jeholet had singularly lacked persuasion about the chances of having these protections in time.

In any case, compulsory education resumes its rights this Monday. A first day of testing the reopening of schools went well on Friday in the Flemish Community. This return to school only concerns a minority of students. To avoid the spread of the virus, it was necessary to provide sufficient space between each desk.

Thus, the French-speaking back to school first concerns pupils in 6th primary and those in 6th or 7th secondary, for a maximum of two days per week and per group. These classes were deemed to be priority because they crystallize the choices and orientations of young people in the face of their future studies and training.

If the start of this Monday is going well, a second phase will be launched in a week. On May 25, students in the first and perhaps second years of primary school could return to school, according to lightened rhythms. The space available in each establishment will be taken into account. Some schools have already decided not to bring in pupils from the second year of primary school, for example.

Choice of families

But while in Belgium compulsory education (up to 18 years old) takes the place of a sacred cow, there is currently no obligation to return to school for the classes concerned. “We also want to take into account the feeling of fear felt by part of the population. No pupil will therefore be punished for unjustified absence, “reassured the Minister of Education, the socialist Caroline Désir.

The concern that schools will reopen to allow parents to return to business is therefore futile – even if, on the edge opposite, some companies are pressing for their employees to be present. Telework remains officially the norm, when possible.

All students not affected by the repossession remain at home or, if there are no other solutions, will be taken in daycare.


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