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The school year begins in Guatemala with uncertainty for online classes

Chimaltenango (Guatemala), Feb 22 (EFE) .- The 2021 public school year in Guatemala began this Monday through a hybrid system of face-to-face and distance classes, but with uncertainty due to the lack of internet access in the Central American country, where only the 29.3% of inhabitants can connect to the network. More than 2.5 million kindergarten and elementary school students will seek to “recover” classes from this Monday, with the return to classrooms with small groups and still under online classes, governed by the covid alert traffic light system -19 from the Guatemalan Ministry of Public Health. The cycle began 45 days later than usual due to the delays last year caused by the pandemic, which accumulates 171,170 infections in Guatemala and has left 6,282 deaths in total. With a reduced capacity and with the measures of healthy distance, use of the mask and alcohol gel, various educational centers opened their doors to students and parents for the first time in almost a year, since the official schools closed in March of 2020 for the first case detected. The president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, inaugurated the school year at the Official Urban School Number Two in the department of Alta Verapaz, 236 kilometers north of the Guatemalan capital. Present at the activity were the Minister of Education, Claudia Ruiz, and the Secretary General of Guatemalan Education Workers (STEG), Joviel Acevedo, a controversial trade unionist, as well as other officials. THE DIGITAL UNCERTAINTY In the departmental capital of Chimaltenango, in the center of the country and some 50 kilometers west of Guatemala City, the Ramona Gil public nursery school inaugurated the school term with a dozen children and other mothers and teachers, with the expectation of “retaking” the student course. The president of the Ramona Gil School Parents Organization, Cindy Orozco, told Efe that her son was “excited” to return and that he was also uncertain about the care to be taken at school, such as the healthy distance, the mask, hand washing and temperature measurement. “We have to adapt to the new reality,” added Orozco, a law student. The educational supervisor of Chimaltenango from the Ministry of Education, Julio Mututz Catu, welcomed the possibility of “recovering what was lost in 2020”, when the cycle was suspended in person in March, but with the certainty that this will not be completely until return to “a certain normality”, in 2023. “Here these support programs for families are a relief, but imagine in the poorest municipalities, in the villages, where there is no electricity or internet access, those will be the most difficult challenges for us, “he emphasized. According to the 2019 population and housing census, only 29.3% of the 16.3 million Guatemalans have internet access. THE NEW SCHOOL NORMALITY Like the Ramona Gil school, which will work in groups of ten students in shifts one day a week, the schools will depend on the traffic light alerts that report the density of infections for each of the country’s municipalities. “In addition to the face-to-face classes a week, we send WhatsApp messages with the course guides and even a large majority of families have asked us to do classes by Zoom (video call), but that depends on people’s pockets,” he mentioned the director of the school’s afternoon session, Ana Patricia García. The teacher added that they also have a Facebook group “from where we coordinate cultural or extracurricular activities, such as Children’s Day or storytelling events and other things we have done.” The educational quality, he admitted, “cannot be 100% as in past years, but we are betting with our hearts to recover.” In Guatemala, 59% of the population lives below the poverty line and one in two children suffers from malnutrition, according to international organizations and official data. (c) EFE Agency

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