Rio de Janeiro – At a time when the number of deaths by covid explodes in Rio de Janeiro and hospitals are on the verge of collapse, with an occupancy rate of 92% in ICU beds, the battle over the reopening of schools in the city. At 11 pm yesterday (4), the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice suspended the plan of the city hall of the capital that provided for today the return of face-to-face classes in private schools and tomorrow, in the municipal public network. The decision, in a preliminary order, responded to a popular action brought by a group of councilors in opposition to Mayor Eduardo Paes (DEM).
According to the table established by the health authorities, Rio de Janeiro is currently in the phase called the purple flag of risk of contagion of the covid, the penultimate one, just behind the black flag phase. This was already the scenario before the ten-day holiday decreed by Paes and which ended yesterday. Two days before the “emergency break” started, the State Union of Education Professionals (Sepe-RJ) and the Teachers Union of Rio de Janeiro (Sinpro-RJ) filed a lawsuit calling for the immediate closure of schools. As there was no response, the entities sought help from the opposition bench of the City Council.
This morning, the Municipal Secretary of Education, Renan Ferreirinha, stated that the Rio de Janeiro City Hall is only waiting for the arrival of the court notification to appeal. The unions, in turn, are prepared for yet another battle. “We still don’t know who they are going to turn to. The injunction may be overturned, but at this point, what is going on is that no school can open. Today is a mess. Many schools are complaining and saying they are going to open, some are saying that they have not received any communication from the Justice and others say that they will pay the daily fine of R $ 50 thousand stipulated in case of non-compliance with the judicial order ”, says the vice-president of Sinpro -RJ, Afonso Celso Teixeira.
Teixeira draws attention to what he describes as irresponsibility of the public authorities. “The state government itself had said that if we were in the red phase, schools would not open. How do you want to open it now, in the purple phase? Before, the maximum capacity for face-to-face activities was 35% and now they have increased to 50%. We consider this an insanity. At a time when the pandemic is getting worse, when more and more young people are catching the disease. The lethality rate of the disease has reached a much higher level than it had last year. We understand that this is not the time to reopen schools, ”he says.
According to the information received by the union, security protocols had been systematically disrespected by most schools. “The volume of complaints that Sinpro received before the holiday about schools that did not respect the protocols was very large. Now do they think they will comply, even increasing the number of people in face-to-face activities? There were schools that did not even respect the issue of relay and the determination to leave part of the students in the remote and part in the classroom. Schools were functioning normally as if nothing was happening. It is very sad that we see a space of knowledge denying science and all the scientific evidence that we have so far ”, says Teixeira.
In the popular action sent to the Court of Justice, 12 councilors and deputies affirm that “the municipality of Rio de Janeiro is going through the worst moment of the pandemic” and that “the precipitous return of the face-to-face classes would give rise to an unreasonable increase in the risks of contagion, on a stage in that the hospital structure is on the verge of collapse, without any effective measures to reduce risks in terms of exposure in public transport having been promoted, especially when vaccination has not yet reached safe immunization rates ”. In this context, the parliamentarians conclude, “the prediction of a hasty return to classes would violate the principle of administrative morality and would lack valid motivation”.
One of the signatories of the action, state deputy Waldeck Carneiro (PT) defines the injunction granted by the Court as “very important”. “It is necessary to reconcile the sanitation protocols of schools, the vaccination of education professionals and, of course, take into account the epidemiological curve in each municipality, according to the flag code set by the health authorities. Municipalities in Rio de Janeiro that have the risk considered high or very high for the covid – red flag and purple flag – cannot resume their on-site activities, although it is very important to restore the regular educational activities of our students. But, not putting the lives of students, education professionals and their families at risk. ”
Lack of dialogue
In a note, Sepe-RJ sent a message to Eduardo Paes: “We hope that before seeking to overturn this injunction, the Municipal Secretary of Education and the City Hall itself reopen the discussion with Sepe and the councilors, in search of a consensus on that the life of the entire school community, first of all, be respected ”.
The popular action was born when the union leaders sought dialogue with several councilors from the opposition base to prevent the classroom from returning in class this beginning of the week. “A meeting was held on Thursday (1) between the board and the Juridical of Sepe with the parliamentarians and their respective legal advisors, in which it was agreed that the councilors would go to court to prevent the return of classes,” explains the union.
“Time of lockdown”
General coordinator of Sepe-RJ, Izabel Costa celebrated the injunction. “For us, this was a very important measure because, contrary to what Secretary Renan Ferreirinha has been saying, we are following science, which has been presenting a very serious situation in the city and throughout the State, with a purple flag and a very high level of contamination, waiting lines that expand to the ICU beds and an uncontrolled pandemic. This is what we are seeing. Almost all infectologists are adamant that the time is right lockdown and not to reopen schools, ”he says.
Izabel complains that the Justice has not been attending to the Union’s legal actions, and says she hopes it will be different now. “It is very important to maintain this injunction, not least because the main arguments of the city hall have no meaning in the situation experienced by us. The first argument is that schools are the first to open and the last to close. In the current situation, we would already have to have work activities and schools closed. It is not possible for the City to work this as a dogma, as something that cannot be modified, and take everything to a very dangerous scenario, that of political dispute. ”
The unionist also criticizes the Secretariat of Education for the statement that schools are a welcoming place for the most needy children. “With the current situation of the covid pandemic, schools in Rio de Janeiro are reopening with a small number of children who only stay in school for three hours a day. Where do the children stay for the rest of the day? How are they served, including in their food security? In many school units, only a biscuit and a juice box are served ”, he says.
“The prefecture should be committed to expanding the food card for these families and giving each one of them local emergency assistance so they can stay indoors. Many families are precarious and need to go out into the street to earn their livelihood. Let this assistance be given so that children can have other meals and other family members can have access to food because they are hungry. The mayor, who says he is not a negationist, is being a negationist ”, concludes Izabel Costa.
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