Fulcar meets Ozoria to demonstrate he has the backing of the Catholic Church; Educa president blasts tragedy of delayed return to schools

The Ministry of Education has made public its recent meeting with Metropolitan Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Monsignor Francisco Ozoria Acosta of the Roman Catholic Church. A press release from the Ministry announces that during the meeting, they discussed the crisis of values affecting the country and the commitment to promote moral recovery through education.

The Archbishop of Santo Domingo has been a staunch supporter against the passing of the three grounds for abortion and sex education in schools. On the other hand, Education Minister Roberto Fulcar has been criticized for putting all the eggs in the basket of distance learning and not preparing public schools for the return to in-person learning. While private schools were ready to implement Covid-19 protocols and return to safe learning in schools, Fulcar refused to authorized their opening.

One of the strongest advocates for a return to in-person learning, the pro-education non-profit organization, Educa president, Samuel Conde said on 13 May 2021: “It is a pity that at least five full months of face-to-face moments have been lost for the entire system.” He lamented that the Ministry of Education had only authorized distance learning when schools reopened in November 2020. “Now it is no use crying over spilled milk, we must be optimistic, look forward with hope and that the vaccination plan being implemented by the government, and which has been praised globally, will soon allow us to leave behind this nightmare that has brought so much pain to the country and has left so many adverse effects on the education system,” said Conde.

Instead of carrying out efforts to prepare schools for a return to in-person learning, the Ministry of Education has spent billions on air time and programming for distance learning.

Given the strong resistance to in-person learning on behalf of Education Minister Roberto Fulcar, Educa authorities lobbied with Vice President Raquel Peña and just recently, she announced she had “always” been in support of the return to in-person learning. Vice President Peña heads the Health Cabinet in the Abinader administration. Once she made her position public, Public Health Minister Daniel Rivera seconded her. Previously, he had backed the position of Fulcar to not open schools until the positivity rate was over 10%.

Shortly after the Education Minister announced that as of 25 May 2021 all pre-school and elementary schools around the country would be authorized to reopen under Covid-19 protocols. His previous stand was that schools could open only in districts where Covid-19 positivity is 5% or less, and against the reopening of private schools.

The Catholic Church operates hundreds of private schools in the Dominican Republic, many are affiliated to the public school system. The press release from the Ministry of Education is to tell the public that the church backs the Ministry of Education under Fulcar. “We feel very committed to the initiatives that your administration is carrying out in education under Minister Fulcar, this helps us to strengthen our call to society to retake our values as Dominicans and as a society of integrity,” said Ozoria.

“Contributing to values, to an education for a better life is our commitment in this administration, that is why we work tirelessly, because our dream is to see that qualitative leap in the formation of our children, young people and adolescents and that together we can promote a generation of citizens with great professional and human quality”. said Minister Fulcar.

Minister Fulcar and Archbishop Ozoria also discussed the new stage of gradual opening of the classrooms.

Also present at the meeting with the Catholic Church hierarchy and the Minister of Education were auxiliary bishops Monsignor Benito Ángeles, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo and Rector of the Catholic University of Santo Domingo (UCSD), Monsignor Amable de la Cruz, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo. Also Deputy Minister Rafael Bello, among other Ministry of Education officials and representatives of the Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church has led the rejection of the including of the three grounds for abortion in the Penal Code now under study in Congress. The ruling Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) had been a strong supporter of the three grounds when in the opposition. Now in power, it has given in to the pressures of religious organizations that reject any abortion. The Dominican Republic has one of the highest rates of child unions and pregnancies in the world, a major factor contributing to poverty.

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14 May 2021