In Spain, the sling of parents against the return to school

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MADRID | As Spain experiences an explosion in COVID-19 cases, many parents balk or even refuse to send their children back to school. And this, despite the threats of sanctions brandished by the authorities.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

“To learn you have all your life, but health you only have one”, annoys Aroa Miranda, mother of two boys aged 8 and 3 who will not put them back to school this week. in Castellon de la Plana (east).

“They are doing an experiment to see what will happen, like with guinea pigs”, indignant this 37-year-old unemployed woman.

“For my 8-year-old son, I will try to invent excuses, to say that he is ill,” Aroa explains when schooling is compulsory in the country from 6 to 16 years old. She deregistered her other 3 year old son.

According to her, the compulsory mask at school from 6 years old, at all times, and the measures of distancing, will not be enough.

“If I don’t have the right to gather more than ten people in my house, I don’t understand why my son should be with 25 children in a class,” she is surprised.

“No zero risk”

For several weeks, demonstrations and petitions from parents have multiplied in Spain to demand more health guarantees in schools.

According to an international survey by the Ipsos institute published at the end of July, Spanish opinion is against the tide of its European neighbors.

A majority of respondents in Spain are in favor of reducing the number of days of face-to-face lessons, and a quarter would prefer to wait “between 4 and 6 months” before sending children back to school.

Faced with the concern, the authorities oscillate between reassuring messages and threats of sanctions.

“Schools are much safer than other places even if there is no zero risk in an epidemic”, insisted on Tuesday the head of government Pedro Sanchez, “but there is a risk that we must avoid : social exclusion ”.

“Children cannot live in bubbles,” pleaded the chief epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Simon. “They can just as well catch (the virus) at the park, or when they go to see their cousins ​​or by their father who is infected at work”.

In a country where nearly a quarter of the population lives under the same roof as a loved one over 65, according to a 2018 public institute survey, many parents fear exposing their elders.

“I want to respect the law, but between saving the lives of my parents and my grandparents, and taking my children to school, there is no hesitation,” Pablo Sanchez told AFP in his living room in Madrid, surrounded by his five children whom he prefers not to send to school.

“That they fined me”

Aroa also fears the economic consequences of contamination of one of her children. “If we have to confine ourselves at home for 15 days because of school, my husband will not receive anything,” she explains.

In response, Social Security Minister José Luis Escriva spoke on Friday of the possibility of also compensating parents of children in preventive quarantine whose test is negative.

The specter of sanctions also hangs over refractory families. The head of education for the Madrid region thus warned at the end of August against a possible sentence of “one to three years in prison”.

“This is the question we are asked the most at the moment”, explains Pedro Caballero, president of the Catholic Confederation of Parents of Students, but “we do not know how to answer it for the moment” in the face of the blur legal.

Education Minister Isabel Celaa commissioned a report on the issue without ruling out possible sanctions.

“Education is a right of the pupil, and not of the parents” and “it is an obligation of the public authorities to ensure that this right is respected”, she warned in the daily El Pais.

“Get them fined, for me the most important thing is my children,” Aroa retorts.

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