Fewer than half of Mexico’s 25 million pre-school, primary school and middle school students returned to the classroom on Monday, according to preliminary data, but the federal education minister believes that the real number of returnees is much higher.
Schools across Mexico reopened on Monday 17 months after closing due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Minister Delfina Gómez said Tuesday that schools reopened in 30 states with the only exceptions being Sinaloa and Baja California Sur due to the lingering presence of Hurricane Nora.
Preliminary data showed that 119,497 schools were open on Monday and more than 970,000 teachers and just over 11.4 million students – about 45% of the total – were in attendance, she said.
However, more than 20 million students were expected to have returned to the classroom by Tuesday, Gómez said.
“… There are children who didn’t show up yesterday but they’ll turn up today,” she told reporters at President López Obrador’s morning press conference, explaining that some schools are only receiving half their student body on any given day.
“… This week we’re going to be in the data confirmation process,” Gómez said. “We don’t want to give erroneous data, we want to give very precise data.”
The education minister said that she spoke to some of the students who returned to classes on Monday and their overwhelming emotion was one of excitement.
“Some little pre-schoolers said: ‘Is this a school?’ because they’d never been. Others were in third grade when [schools closed], … now they’re in fifth grade. So it was a very exciting situation,” Gómez said.
Many will have a lot of catching up to do now they are back in the classroom.
The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, a think tank, reported earlier this year that approximately 10 million students will fall behind in their learning by up to two years due to the closure of schools during the pandemic.
Gómez said authorities will also seek to get students who dropped out of school during the pandemic back to the classroom.
“In that the participation of UNICEF will be very important, it has been supporting us [in that area],” she said.
Despite the risk of coronavirus outbreaks in schools as Mexico faces a delta variant-driven third wave of the pandemic, Gómez expressed confidence that the return to in-person learning will be a success.
“If each of us does what he or she has to do – parents, teachers, authorities – … I believe there will be very good results,” she said.
Mexico News Daily