Ever since Count Blessings came into the world last month, he’s been really anxious for school to start at the end of this month so he could make his debut. He wanted so much to personally meet the kids in the after-school program at the University of Guanajuato Extension, here in San Miguel de Allende, where I’ve been a volunteer English teacher one afternoon a week.
He knew the kids would love him, and he would love them back. He was counting the days and looking forward to counting blessings with his new friends. (See my posts of July 3 and 24 for his backstory.)
Well, I had to break the news to him this week that this wasn’t going to happen. There’ll be no in-person classes in Mexico this coming fall school semester. This state’s University of Guanajuato, I learned, is going for online courses. And the federal school system will be using educational television and radio programs for school instruction.
Count Blessings was crestfallen when he heard this news. He almost couldn’t believe his oversize ears. To convince him, I had to read aloud portions of a translation of the Mexican government’s announcement:
“On August 24 the 2020-2021 school year will begin … remotely, because the conditions do not exist to do it in person. President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador signed an agreement with national television stations to produce classes … that will serve 30 million students. …
“In six television channels a wide national coverage will be achieved. … Those who do not have access to the television signal will have a radio scheme, free textbooks, workbooks, and special attention.”
I continued reading: “More than 4,550 television and 640 radio programs will be produced and broadcast in 20 indigenous languages. All broadcasts will feature Mexican sign language, and the free textbooks will be printed in Braille and macro. … They are not entertainment broadcasts…”
Well, that, I guess, excludes my new puppet, Count Blessings. He won’t be entertaining the children any time soon.
Countries around the world, writes Melissa Godin in Time (July 20), are wrestling over how to reopen schools, after the coronavirus pandemic led to a closure of 60 percent of schools across 186 countries and territories, and forced 1.5 billion students to stay home.
Most of the countries that reopened in-person schooling earlier this year report relatively low numbers of cases of COVID-19 and conduct widespread contact tracing. One worst-case scenario, however, was Israel. After Israel reopened its school doors in May to full classes, more than two thousand people tested positive throughout the country’s education system, and at least one teacher died (www.cfr.org).
In the United States most schools have yet to reopen; and a growing number of them, especially in many of the nation’s larger cities, are choosing to teach online. New York City, the largest school district in the country, however, is planning a hybrid approach to reopening next month, with a mix of in-person classes and remote learning. New York State’s more than 700 school districts will reopen for in-person learning this fall.
But, according to The New York Times (August 7), “in some places, including Indiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia, students began streaming back into classrooms as early as last week, with quarantines quickly following.”
I’m telling Count Blessings that it’s best to stay home. The coronavirus is still out there, lurking. We don’t have a TV, so he’s been hanging out with me in the kitchen as I work on my new, fun project, a book of stories, recipes, and photos I’m calling “Sweet Tarts.” He likes to supervise my work, so I prop him up in a basket on the counter, where he also entertains me. Now we’re both happy.