Universities’ return to classes lasts for just a few hours

universities brasilia
University of Brasília campus. Photo: Ag. Brasília

This afternoon, the Jair Bolsonaro administration issued an ordinance calling for a return to in-person classes in federal universities as early as January. But the norm was revoked just hours later, following strong opposition from teachers’ unions, which complained that they had not been consulted by the Education Ministry.

The timing of the ordinance was also unfortunate, as Brazil is going through what some experts believe to be a second coronavirus wave, with deaths and cases rising in recent weeks. University rectors argue that in-person classes should only return when it is possible to ensure that classrooms will not become hotbeds for the virus. The University of Brasília issued a statement saying it “refused to put students in danger.”

Speaking to CNN Brasil, Education Minister Milton Ribeiro said he wants to “listen to the academic community.” He added that “schools were not prepared [for such a quick return], there was no planning for that.”

In-person classes in Brazilian universities have been suspended since March due to the pandemic. Their return would affect over 2.3 million people, including students, teachers, and staff members, according to government data.

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