Arguing that it is meeting students’ constitutional right to education, a large private school association has called upon private schools to reopen in-person classes starting March 1, despite edicts by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education (SEP) for schools to remain closed.
“We have the right to provide education according to the third article of the constitution, and no one will restrict those rights,” said Alfredo Villar, president of the National Association of Private Schools.
Opening is optional for each school, Villar said. The association expects about 65% of students to return to in-person classes.
According to SEP figures from last year, 5.3 million K-12 students in Mexico were enrolled in private schools.
The association says it is making the call to reopen because many private schools are at the point of collapse due to the distance learning scheme instituted by SEP. Many schools are completely closed and may never reopen, it said on its website.
Soon after the SEP announced last August that distance learning would continue for the 2020-2021 school year, the association estimated that about 18,600 private schools in Mexico would likely end up closing permanently as a result.
The association accuses the Mexican government of “indolence” in finding a solution for schools to return to in-person classes, a situation which has created chaos in the country’s private schools, it said.
“Currently, many of these schools find themselves completely closed or at the point of bankruptcy, which will leave millions of users of the national education system defenseless,” the association said.
When the SEP announced in August that classes for public students would be broadcast on television, many parents with children in private schools began deregistering them, Villar told the news outlet Infobae.
“Many parents didn’t think it was necessary to pay tuition,” he said.
According to the SEP, over 465,000 teachers at 46,675 private schools are currently being paid a fraction of their salaries because many parents have not paid full tuition since the pandemic began.
Many private schools in Mexico charge tuition by the month, and some parents at these schools are paying only the minimum to maintain access the schools’ online teaching platforms.
Carla Maseli is one such parent. She told the newspaper El País that she continues to pay for her 10-year-old son’s access to online classes at a private school, but she sometimes doesn’t see the point, she said.
“At the end of the day, I see that my son hasn’t understood anything since he’s distracted a lot because the space that he uses to play at home now is his place to study,” she said. “A 45-minute class ends up being less than 10 due to connection problems, and they end up watching a video on YouTube.”
A cascade of private schools permanently closing would negatively affect Mexico’s public school system, the association asserts. It said that public schools would suddenly see their student populations greatly increase due to an influx of former private school students.