Going back to school during a global pandemic

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Borna Stiglec

With the start of a new school year just around the corner and the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, students' views on going back to school are divided. The question of whether to return to school or not is an everyday conversation topic and has been more relevant than ever before.

So, what should we do when the pandemic is still far from being over but our right to education is at stake?

Quality of online classes has been heavily debated ever since the schools were closed last time. While there are many perks of online classes and learning from home has shown its good sides, many believe that it is not as good as face-to-face lessons we used to attend in school.

There are many subjects, such as maths or physics, that are hard to learn from a computer screen but much easier when you can ask the teacher to repeat or further explain something that you don't really understand. Furthermore, a huge part of going to school is socializing with our classmates and developing different social skills. We can hardly do that from behind the screen. The need to learn and get the best education possible has been the main reason why many believe that return to schools at the start of the new school year is necessary. 

All I’m hoping is that everyone will continue to take the necessary precautions so that we could go back to our normal lives.

The future is in the hands of the young people, and education is what will shape us into people who will make the world a better place for all.

On the other hand, going back to school means risking ours and the health of our family and friends. Uncontrolled crowds in the hallways during breaks in between classes are too disturbing to even think of. The spread of the virus in schools is inevitable to say the least. Apart from this, we also need to think about students and teachers that belong to risk groups. It wouldn't be easy to wake up every day and leave for school, knowing that you are endangering your own wellbeing. Aside from this, majority of schools lack space to provide necessary precautions, like social distancing in classrooms.

From my point of view, this isn't a problem with a simple solution. While I do believe that real classes are better for students than the online ones, going back to school, especially if the school cannot provide the needed precautions, is not such a good idea.

For me, this period has been extremely hard and I would be more than happy to start school again and see all of my classmates but I also need to think about my health and the health of others. Two of my close friends belong to vulnerable and high risk groups, as they both have underlying health conditions. For them, going back to school is a worry. They, and so many others, are practically forced to choose between their health and their education.

Here in Croatia, we started this school year in person but were obliged to wear masks to protect everyone around us. Everybody was nervous, not sure what the first week had in store for us. It turned out to be quite successful, as we managed to go through with classes and still keep the potential spread of the virus under control.

The only disadvantage was the unbearable heat, which was only worsened by masks. However, we endured that as well, having in mind that our health and education should always stay a priority, no matter what.

Right now, I’m more than satisfied with how the first week went. All I’m hoping is that everyone will continue to take the necessary precautions so that we could go back to our normal lives.

The future is in the hands of the young people, and education is what will shape us into people who will make the world a better place for all.

Borna Štiglec (17, Croatia), UNICEF Croatia Junior Ambassador for the Rights of the Children and Young People.

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