Schools are filling up with kids again! Their smiles are almost bigger than their faces. Everything they’ll need is ready—the backpacks, school supplies, books, notebooks and pencils.
Their impeccable school clothes and shoes adorn their little bodies, which after nearly a year, are beginning to work hard again.
After going around in seemingly endless circles of indecision, most schools in my country Argentina, have opened their doors.
A host of new words have infiltrated parents’ vocabulary within WhatsApp groups; words like protocol, social distancing, chinstrap, masks, bubble. And the essentials inside student backpacks now include alcohol wipes, hand-sanitizer and masks.
Kindergarten class has had to change its most basic rule— where ‘sharing’ was once taught par excellence, today they must explain a different concept, “What’s mine is mine; and what’s yours is yours.” No one is allowed to drink from their classmate’s juice. No one can eat what another child brought from home.
The classrooms resemble the sparseness of empty volleyball or basketball courts. All perfectly marked by adhesive tape to limit how much space each child can move in. The school lunchrooms are non-operating—the same as in-flight food service. Nowadays, school lunches are handed out classroom-by-classroom on individual trays. And, of course, every utensil is disposable.
In a country like Argentina, with a famous predilection for soccer—it was common for school children, boys and girls alike; from all grade levels to mix together to go chasing a ball in the schoolyard for a few minutes during recess. But today, they’re only allowed to play with kids in their own bubble; and by protocol, groups cannot exceed over 15 students.
The teams have changed—so have the games. In the schoolyard a group of girls urgently runs away from another classmate, so she won’t catch up to them. “What’s the name of the game?” I ask. “The COVID stain,” they tell me.“If they catch you, COVID grabs you and you have to run and try to catch the others.”
My eight-year-old son Octavio came up with another game. At school, when he happened to sneeze (while wearing his mask) they began to say he had COVID and his sneezes were bombs that would explode and spread it all over the classroom. You have to be well protected so the bomb doesn’t reach you and annihilate you. Imagination doesn’t stop these youngsters who have spent the last several months in front of computer screens, where everything is already solved.
When previously there was reluctance to get up for school, and fatigue when having to do homework or study, today it has all turned to joy.
Back-to-school brings a smile to them when they get together with classmates, or make new friends. They have a reason to get up every day—to organize their school work and play schedules. Before schools re-opened, the Government had re-opened nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and gaming centers; but somehow education had fallen through the cracks.
And it was not due to oversight, but part of a more concrete plan—promoting ignorance among their people is part of an agenda for many leaders of Latin American countries. They want people who do not think, and cannot question whether or not what’s being done is correct. Walking through the streets of Buenos Aires, I came across some graffiti that reads, “A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.”