Tirana, 20 August 2020- CRCA/ECPAT Albania, through this public statement, addressed to the Albanian Government, would like to express its deep concern regarding the decision of the Ministry of Education to start the new school year on 14 September 2020. The health situation due to the virus is so serious that Albania and our citizens are categorically forbidden to travel to any EU country. In the list of countries most affected by Covid, Albania is among the first countries in Europe per 100,000 inhabitants.
Despite these very disturbing and stubborn facts, the Ministry of Education has taken its decision to open the new school year on September 14 for all children, at the same time it is opening schools on 31 August for children who did not have access to online learning during the previous educational year. So far there has been no public consultation regarding the opening of the new school year either with the Parents' Boards or with civil society organizations working in the field of education or child rights.
Given this highly unusual situation with such a high risk to human health, we have a single question for the Albanian Government: On which study or facts was the Ministry of Education based to make the decision to open the new school year on 14 September 2020? Who were the experts of the Ministry that considered our schools, under current situation, safe environments for the health and well-being of children?
The Ministry of Education, despite some encouraging statements made regarding the degree of readiness of the teaching staff in Albania to face Covid19, has not shared any detailed study on what the impact will be of Covid-19 on children and how the opening of schools will influence the spread of the virus among children and to the wider population? What are the practical and strategic measures taken by the Ministry to eliminate the exposure of children to a virus, which according to scientists, causes the same consequences to children as well?
Scientists in the United States, in the states where the schools have been open for few weeks, have begun to share their concerns that children attending schools have become one of the main transmitters of the virus, while some children have been hospitalized due to complications. This information has been publicly and widely disseminated not only among the medical circles, but also in serious mainstream media such as CNN or BBC, but apparently, it has not reached the Albanian Government.
It is publicly known that none of the teachers have been trained on how to deal with Covid, social distancing etc. Many public schools do not meet the minimum standards for childcare and personal hygiene.
Based on the above, CRCA/ECPAT Albania, asks publicly the Albanian Government to not open the public schools, without a proper study of the impact that covid could have on children and their families in Albania!
The opening of schools should be done only through a well-studied national plan, in consultation with parents and the public, which takes into account the health of children, the rate of spread of the virus in Albania, the possibilities of the paediatric system to face increased number of children getting sick and the possibility that covid-19 will affect the poorest children and those exposed to respiratory diseases, diabetes, lack of healthy food, etc.
Through this statement, we would like to address also all the members of the Parliamentary Commission Media and Education, as well as all members of the Albanian Parliament, to urgently request the Ministry of Education to draft and consult a nationwide plan for the opening of the schools for the year 2020-2021. Such a plan should include, among other issues, measures that support distance learning - if the opening of schools will always be considered impossible by experts.
There are only 24 days left between now and the start of a new school year. Let’s not make this year one that counts as the year against the life of children in Albania!