Mexican Students Head Back to Class during Pandemic’s Third Wave
By JESSICA GUERRERO
Last week, Mexico’s Public Health Secretariat acknowledged that the country had surpassed the 3-million-case mark of covid-19 cases.
And those were just the confirmed cases.
Because of low testing rates and questionable recordkeeping practices, many national and international medical experts estimate that the real number of covid cases in Mexico could be 25 or 30 times higher than those acknowledged by the government.
Even using the admittedly over-conservative government figures, Mexico now ranks 15th worldwide in terms of the number of confirmed covid cases, and fourth in terms of covid deaths.
Worse yet, Mexico’s third wave of the virus has been far more devastating than its first and second wave.
Day-after-day, the nation’s hospitals continue to break records as to the number of new cases.
Earlier this month, Mexican health authorities confirmed nearly 25.000 new infection in a single day, the highest figure ever recorded in Mexico since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
And despite the government’s much-touted advances in its national vaccination program — which allegedly has led to about 59 percent of the country’s adult population having received at least one dose of some sort of covid-19 vaccine (including some that have been approved by the World Health Organization and some that have not been approved by the WHO) — the number of new infections continues to grow exponentially.
And in the face of this growing crisis, along with the disconcerting advances of the seemingly more contagious and possibly more dangerous Delta and Lambda variants of the disease, the return to face-to-face classes of 25 million Mexican students on Aug. 30 as proposed by the federal government is a national disaster waiting to happen.
Given the imminent danger for children and teachers alike, local education authorities in the states of Nuevo León and Michoacán have outright refused to take part in the federal return-to-school program, stating that they will continue with virtual classes, at least for basic education levels.
On the other hand, 20 states have confirmed their return to face-to-face classes. They are Aguascalientes, Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Mexico City, Coahuila, Durango, the State of Mexico, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Querétaro, Morelos, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán and Zacatecas.
And yet another 10 states have yet to decide which education system they will adopt. Those states are Baja California Sur, Colima, Guerrero, Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Nayarit, Puebla and Quintana Roo.
The health protocol proposed by Mexico’s Public Education Secretariat (SEP) for the return to face-to-face classes has been severely criticized by health experts, most of whom have deemed it “inappropriate and unrealistic” given the fact that many schools lack even basic services such as running water and electricity.
But rather than address these crucial issues that impede the implementation of essential sanitary measures, the SEP has chosen to brush off its responsibility for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the nation’s children, passing the buck on to their parents.
As a part of its dubious strategy for a return to in-person classes, the SEP announced that it will require parents to sign a document assuming the responsibility of “monitoring” their children’s health on a regular basis and notifying school authorities if they detect any covid-related symptoms.
In other words, the students’ health is the parents’ problem, not the government’s or the public education system’s.
Since Mexico has not yet begun to inoculate minors against covid, these children are in a very precarious situation, and international evidence has shown that children are now getting the disease much more than inthe past.
In the United States alone, nearly 94,000 children were infected with covid-19 just last week.
And here in Mexico, as of Monday, Aug. 16, at least 8,491 children had been hospitalized with covid-19.
That number is almost certain to surge as students return to classes, putting Mexico’s most precious asset — its children — at dire risk.