In Chile, a more violent return to school after two years without school

It is 8:30 am and the students of the Catholic School Salesiano, in Valparaiso, freely enter the premises of the establishment, dressed in their uniform. In a few days, access will be more selective. Children over 14 go through a metal detector. “The gates are a preventive measure linked to several cases where students at other schools were caught with weapons,” justifies the establishment, which is awaiting a decision by the regional education office to install its gates.

With this move, the Salesiano school made headlines and sparked controversy in the education community, which was already deeply concerned about the increase in violence in schools since the mandatory return to face-to-face classes last March. The National Teachers’ Union denounced this initiative, arbitrarily taken by the Salesiano School, stating that: ‘No one wants prison patterns to repeat themselves in our schools’.

Many schools are closed

From October 2019, the lives of schoolchildren and students in Chile changed. During the social uprising, many schools had to close. After the summer holidays (December 2019 to February 2020), the pandemic forced all branches to remain closed for the entire 2020 school year.

Veronica Lopez, director of the Center for Research on Inclusive Education at the Catholic University of Chile in Valparaiso, points out that the consequences of this long incarceration have been very different depending on the schools: “School in Chile promotes segregation. For decades it acted as a market and generates a lot of discrimination. Where you go is determined by your social class. The quality of education therefore differs greatly from school to school. »

From March 2021, the return to the classroom was voluntary, and “Private colleges, which have more resources, allowed students to go back to class around April 2021,” continues Veronica Lopez. “The students of public colleges, for their part, returned earlier around October 2021. So two years, since October 2019, without going to school. Due to their small budget, they were unable to meet the reception conditions. It is in the latter establishments that we observe the greatest problems of violence.” Indeed, a report from the Center for Inclusive Education describes: “difficulties of coexistence of schools, episodes of aggression, intimidation and violence between students and towards teachers”.

No computers at home

Located in the popular Las Canas neighborhood of Valparaiso, the David-Ben-Gurion Public School is one of those schools that have used pieces of rope to ensure the education of their students and are faced with problems of sociability. “70% of our activity is self-management”, explains director Claudia Vergara. The Educational Team “keep in direct contact with each child by telephone” but they still have “lost cohabitation”, she continues. The co-director, Roxana Veliz, specifies that: “the instability of the Internet connection at school and among children quickly ruled out the idea of ​​distance learning”. In addition, the students of this popular district “didn’t have computers at home” and they had to do “a call for donations to equip children”. Despite the best efforts, Claudia Vergara acknowledges that“There is a noticeable lag in the level of education, but also on the emotional level” what “ go againincrease inequality between private and public students”.

The number of Covid-19 cases increases again in the southern hemisphere with winter. That is why the Ministry of Education has extended and brought forward these winter school holidays. A measure that has made the children happy, but which threatens to exacerbate isolation and violence among them.

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A changing country

A leftist president. Gabriel Boric, of the left-wing coalition of Approval Dignity, was elected in 2022. His victory marks a change from the centrist incumbents, who have presided over the country since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1990.

A Mapuche woman, Elisa Loncon was appointed President of the Constituent Assembly on July 4, with responsibility for drafting Chile’s new Constitution.

This meeting has nine months before, plus possibly three more months, to write it.

At the end of this work, the text still has to be approved by referendum.

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