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Ahead of the reopening of schools. questions with uncertain answers…

As it is known, schools and universities will reopen in Armenia on September 15. It seems that after many months of distance learning, in which, by the way, 15-20% of pupils were not able to participate, the news of the resumption of the normal school process should have made the children, their parents and teachers very happy, but in reality a number of concerns arose in connection with this…


The main questions are related to the observance of the rules set by the ministry for security reasons. Thus, it will be necessary to maintain social distance, then the classrooms will be divided according to the number of students.How will teachers be able to control active students, restrict their movement and communication… How will schools with financial problems be able to cover the additional costs of disinfection  and relevant materials… And finally one painful question: how are  children going to sit for several hours in classes with a mask… Who will provide socially vulnerable students with masks… These and uncertainty related to a number of other issues is a concern aroused in the public.


Questions that Ministry of Education has not yet answered!


Some educators have already raised concerns about these issues, but the ministry is in no hurry to clarify to address them.


For Sofya Hovsepyan, MP of the NA “My Step” faction the division of classes is puzzling, she asks, what should be the condition of the schools, if the class of 35 people is divided, for example, into 3 parts? Here, according to her, there is an option of organizing 2-3  maybe more classes in turn, and this brings with it at least 2-3 times more workload of teachers. So the same question arises: will the teacher be paid for it? “Besides, there is a class problem, for example, what problems will there be in schools with more than 300 students, how will education be organized in those schools?” How much will the teacher be paid if he / she teaches three times in the same class, at what expense should he / she be paid? These are just some of the goal setting shareware that you can use. “Organizing education without those clarifications will have worse consequences,” Hovsepyan stressed.


Minister of Education and Science Arayik Harutyunyan recently presented how the lesson process will be organized, although most of the above questions remained unanswered. In particular, he informed that schools and universities will open from September 15 (except for the first year of the bachelor’s program), children will sit in class with masks, educational institutions will be dismantled with the help of institutions, classes in schools will become six days. There will be division of classes into groups of 20 people, and if there is a lack of classrooms, then, said Harutyunyan, if necessary, classes will be organized in the halls and physical education halls, as long as the weather allows.


According to the Minister, “in the light of restrictions, the mask is the best way to prevent the spread”, but this is what worries not only parents but also professionals.


The latter especially emphasize the dangers threatening the health of the young generation, as even a healthy person cannot breathe for a long time (one lesson, let’s say, 45 minutes) in a mask, what to say about children… And among them there are those who have health problems, allergies, asthma and other diseases.


It is noteworthy that, for example, according to the decision made in Russia, only teachers in schools will be obliged to wear masks, and students will not. Also, the parents of the children have the right to apply to the management of the institution if the teachers violate the regime of wearing a mask.


As for the additional remuneration of teachers, if they  have to work in two shifts on a six-day basis, according to the preliminary explanations given by the officials of the ministry, the time will not increase, but they will answer more clearly after receiving the guide.


In a conversation with WomenNet.am, the deputy of the NA “My Step” faction Sofya Hovsepyan mentioned that she sees a problem in the issue of masks, as she also feels the difficulties of wearing a mask. According to her, wearing a mask for a long time causes oxygen starvation, and it is obvious that wearing a mask by children will cause these problems. But the deputy is sure that in this case the addressee of the issue is not so much the Ministry of Education and Science as the Ministry of Health.


According to Reuters, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that children over the age of 12 should wear a mask like adults to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Studies show that older children play a more active role in transmitting the coronavirus. Meanwhile, children aged 6-11 are considered risky in terms of following the rules of wearing a mask, as they may wear the mask incorrectly and become infected. As for children under the age of five, they should not wear a mask, according to the recommendations of the WHO and UNICEF.


WomenNet.am got in touch with our compatriot Lilit Dovlatyan, who has been teaching English in China since 2019, who stayed in China during the quarantine months and is familiar with all the processes on the spot. According to Lilit, their region is one of the last ones where the teaching process was restored, including her language center. It was mandatory to attend classes with a mask during the first week, but the children were without a mask during the actual class. Although there were children who wore masks.


“And we, the teachers, started wearing the mask again when it became known that a new case of coronavirus had been registered in our city. But that also lasted for about a week and did not apply to children. “And at no stage has there been such an order that both children and teachers must wear masks, only thermometry and disinfection are mandatory,” she said.


According to our interlocutor, perhaps the reason is that schools and kindergartens were opened at a time when no new cases of coronavirus were registered in the city. However, the main emphasis is on the proper organization of the disinfection process and strict observance of hygiene rules.


What worries parents the most is the fact that they sit in their children’s masks for a few hours. This is the main dissatisfaction they express, including on the Internet, in some cases addressing the Minister personally.


Not only the future status of the students but also the teachers is problematic. Thus, Ani Samsonyan, a member of the NA “Bright Armenia” faction, warns that the directorate of secondary schools has been instructed to collect information on pedagogues in the age group of less than 70, who have different types of chronic diseases.


Referring to a number of international Conventions and Charters, the MP states that the information required on the health status of teachers from public schools is considered a medical secret, which can be provided only by a court decision – at the request of law enforcement agencies, prosecutor’s offices, investigative bodies.


Therefore, Ani Samsonyan addressed the Minister of Education and Science Arayik Harutyunyan and, in her words, demanded to clarify the following questions.

  1. On what legal basis is it required to collect information containing medical secrets about school teachers?
  2. According to what legal act was the information requested?
  3. What is the purpose of information gathering?
  4. Who is responsible for protecting information containing medical confidential information?


The answer to the question has not been received yet, and it can be assumed that the information containing medical secrets about pedagogues continues to be collected… And it is not clear what the consequences will be for older teachers…


Full text in Armenian

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