Resilience is a characteristic of the Dominican people. Private school communities are no exception. The parents, students, teachers and owners of private schools have decided to find a way around the Ministry of Education ban on in-person learning in Greater Santo Domingo. Groups of students are meeting in shopping mall food courts and fast food restaurants. Burger King is openly welcoming students to its restaurants.
For months, the restaurants have been open for the celebrating of children birthdays and family gatherings, why not welcome the children for classes?
The situation is that the Ministry of Education is only allowing partial reopening of public schools in municipalities where Covid-19 is 5% or less. This excludes Santo Domingo schools. The Ministry recently said it would penalize schools that reopened for in-person learning.
Meanwhile, restaurants, shopping malls, theaters, cockfighting arenas, sports clubs, gyms, etc. are open. So, using some creativity, parents, teachers and students decided they, too, could meet in public spaces.
Private schools have been officially closed since March 2020. The Ministry has authorized the reopening of public schools in around 50 municipalities nationwide where Covid-19 positivity is under 5%. Greater Santo Domingo has the highest incidence of Covid-19 spread in the Dominican Republic.
The vaccination drive is advancing in the country, with the government expecting population groups of 50+ to be vaccinated by June 2021.
Meanwhile, instead of authorizing the reopening of schools, the Ministry of Education has invested billions in distance learning programs (radio, TV, Internet) and electronic devices for public school students.
But parents understand children should be back in school. In the evening there is pot-banging activities (cacerolazos) as parents call for the opening of schools in Greater Santo Domingo. Burger King has responded opening its restaurants from 8 to 12pm for school classes, keeping the Covid-19 safe protocols.
The actions come after private schools in Santo Domingo that had opened for a day or two of classes of small groups received letters from the Ministry of Education telling them this was totally prohibited and they should remain closed to their students or be penalized.
Gabriela Porello of the Parents for In Person Learning Association (@ppep.rd on Instagram) says there is no logic to the lockdown of schools. She was interviewed on Esta Noche con Mariasela on Channel 9. The organization has submitted a legal recourse to the Superior Administrative Court against the Ministry of Education disposition that only public schools in municipalities where the positivity is 5% or less can reopen with limitations.
The Ministry of Education recently announced that since classes in the selected municipalities have reopened in April there has not been a single case of spread of Covid by students or teachers.
Porello says the clandestine operation of the private schools, many that had remained open for six months without a single case of Covid-19, proved the protocols are effective in Greater Santo Domingo. Porello said the operation of the private schools and the selection of public schools authorized by the Ministry proves that the billionaire expenditure of the Ministry of Education in distance programs was not necessary. The programs were presented as the great leap for equality in education nationwide. The government has spent billions to contract space in radio and TV stations while keeping the students out of their schools.
Wara Gonzalez, director of Kids Create and American School, explained her centers received a letter from the Ministry of Education banning all kinds of in-person learning. She said in many schools the gatherings at school were happening one day a week and this was banned. She explained the parents were then motivated to send the children to the mall to continue the classes.
González says they have repeatedly requested the inspection of the Ministry of Education and have been ignored. She questioned how can restaurants receive the groups of children and schools not. She said the event at the shopping mall was to emphasize the incoherence of the Ministry of Education measures.
The private school representatives say that the 5% positivity requirement is not in the World Health Organization norms nor in those of the US CDC either. Gabriela Porello says they have requested an opinion from the Superior Administrative Court (TSA), protesting the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Public Health imposition of the 5% positivity. She says the requirement of the 5% positivity to reopen schools does not exist in any other country. The first Minister of Public Health of the Abinader administration, Dr. Plutarco Arias has said schools could reopen when the positivity rate was at 10%.
Porello says the positivity of each school is what is taken into consideration for reopening schools around the world. She says worldwide the motivation is that schools be the first to open and the last to close. She stressed that the schools in Greater Santo Domingo are the best prepared to open with safe protocols.
Wara Gonzalez explained there is an interest of the parents to continue pressing their point. The parents feel this is a way to be heard and empower their children.
3 May 2021