Depriving children of education creates risk of life

Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago. Rector of the University of CEMA. Member of the National Academy of Education. Academic Counselor for Libertad y Progreso.

PERFIL- Covid-19, quarantine, internal borders, barbarism and ignorance and, meanwhile, millions of children have not attended school in Argentina for a single day during 2020.

Covid-19, quarantine, internal borders, barbarism and ignorance and, meanwhile, millions of children have not attended school in person in Argentina for a single day during 2020. Hasn’t this caused a greater risk of life for thousands of children? than being able to have been infected and had the disease? Let’s imagine, for example, two young people who completed their secondary education in the province of Buenos Aires in 2018. Let’s also imagine that one of them attended a public school and the other a private one. Can we say that they are equally qualified to pursue university studies or enter the world of work? The objective answer is no. The young man who entered a public school in 2013 lost 87.5 days of classes during the six years of his schooling due to teacher strikes.

Let us now recall the teaching strike in Santa Cruz in 2017, which reached 108 days, for which more than 70 thousand students lost in practice the year. The provincial government announced, at that time, a new calendar which indicated that classes should begin on August 14, joining on Saturdays and extending until March 31, 2018, keeping the summer break only during January. What is the value of that resolution today? Obviously none. Who can think, in any of these examples, and so many others provided by the teacher strikes that undermine education in our country, that lost days are actually recovered? Of course, children from humble families are the most affected, it is impossible to ignore it.

Let’s go back to our today, to Covid-19, to a year with closed schools. The process that leads to gradually building human capital is not perceived when the child or young person attends school daily, but we see its result several years later. Their life will not be the same after 2020. In less extreme cases, children will not develop their full potential, the chances of achieving a better life have diminished daily with each day that schools have been closed. In the worst case scenario, those boys who have dropped out of school to never return will become the unemployed of tomorrow, and will be fertile prey of being tempted by illegal activities that can lead to an early violent death or to spend long years in prison. Isn’t that a risk of life? Those premature deaths, now ignored, will also be the result of the pandemic. What will be in his adult life of a child who attended elementary school in Santa Cruz in 2017, who did not abandon his studies at that time, and who in 2020 did not attend classes for a single day? Better not think about it, as an example I think it is more than enough.

For this reason, the educational emergency must be decreed and, within its framework, education must be declared an essential public service. The teacher unions have always opposed this initiative, basing their rejection on conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), to which Argentina adhered and which have constitutional status. In this regard, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has established that education is not an essential service, since its interruption would not endanger the life, safety or health of the population. It is clear that this interpretation is far from being correct for our reality; depriving children of education is life-threatening and, therefore, education must be declared an essential public service. Who dares to deny it?


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