Private schools demand right to reopen before public system

Private schools demand right to reopen before public system
School transport in Pará. Photo: Tarcisio Schnaider/Shutterstock

Private school administrators and associations across Brazil are calling for an earlier return to classes, before public schools reopen nationwide — yet to be determined by state and federal health officials. Their main argument is that a smaller number of students attend private schools and that they have greater financial resources to implement safety guidelines while providing students with the necessary personal protective equipment. 

Experts, however, believe that allowing private schools to return earlier than the public system will only widen the already enormous gap in education between private and public schools in Brazil.

According to Ademar Pereira, president of the National Federation of Private Schools (Fenep), the shortcomings of the public education system should not hinder the return of private schools that have the means and capacity to do so. “Public schools already have many problems, from a series of factors accumulated over the years. [Private schools] cannot be put in the situation and wait until they are ready for us to reopen,” Mr. Pereira told newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.

Parents push for school reopening

Among the most frequent requests is the return of classes at the child education level (preschool through kindergarten) — mainly to help parents still commuting to work regularly — and the final year of high school. The latter is especially important for Brazilian students as they prepare to take the National University Entrance Exam (Enem) after earning their secondary school diplomas.

As previously covered by The Brazilian Report, the Covid-19 pandemic has put public school students at a greater disadvantage when compared to their private school counterparts, as resources and online learning opportunities are severely restrained by socioeconomic factors. Allowing an earlier return for private school high school students will give them an extra learning advantage in an already unlevel playing field.

“The private school student [would] return to a normal routine earlier and prepare better for college entry exams. This is another cruelty that [public school] students suffer due to their schools’ lack of money,” said education professor Ângela Soligo, of the University of Campinas, in an interview to Folha de S. Paulo.

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