When union struggle saves lives!

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By ELENIRA VILELA*

There is a debate in Brazil and in the world about whether it is time or past time to return to face-to-face classes

One thing about which there is no discussion among those who minimally respect scientific knowledge is that solving the pandemic crisis in Brazil has been criminal and today we have the second highest number of deaths from COVID 19 in the world.

Only if we compare Santa Catarina with neighboring Uruguay do we see alarming data: Uruguay has 3,5 million inhabitants and SC has 7 million. In Uruguay, 1521 cases and 42 deaths are registered, while SC has 132492 cases and 2042 deaths (data from August 23, 2020). If we kept the Uruguayan proportion, we would have 84 deaths, which means that we have 24 times more deaths.

Very soon we will have 110 lives lost in Brazil and in a month, keeping the average close to a thousand deaths per day, we will reach the sad and unacceptable number of 150 deaths. Most of these deaths were preventable, which means that there is much to be done to identify those responsible and that they suffer the consequences of their actions or their omission.

But one thing is certain: the situation would be much worse if face-to-face classes were not suspended. And this suspension is due to a large extent to the actions of the directorates of unions of workers in education, especially of public networks, all over the country.

Brazil has about 48 million basic education students, distributed in about 180 schools throughout Brazil, according to the INEP School Census[I] de 2019. Of these students, almost 27 million are in elementary school (age group 6 to 14 years old, with 15 million in the initial years and 12 in the final years) and almost 7,5 million in high school. We also have 2,2 million teachers working in basic education. Considering that in early childhood education we have almost 600 teachers for about 9 million children, we can conclude that in Elementary and Secondary Education we have an average of 22 students per teacher. This number is a rather rough average, if we consider that there are several professors who work with the same class and that both private and public schools are included here, which have a very different distribution.

The point is, if the study done by mathematicians from the University of Granada[ii] applied to Brazil grotesquely (disregarding that our families have an average of 1,7 children[iii], while in Spain they are 1,5 and that if we stratify for families in peripheries and rural areas they are larger) and that there they have an average of 20 students per classroom and if we consider only the 1,6 million teachers and the 27 million children and teenagers, considering the Spanish conditions in which each student has contact with 74 people on the first day of class and 808 on the second day, Going back to school means ending social distancing for practically the entire Brazilian population. Of course, two children do not have contact with 74 different people than another child, there are people who will have contact with both of them and that only makes the situation worse, since it is the cross contact that spreads the infection.

I live in Florianópolis and I can clearly see the difference in traffic when there are classes and when there aren't, even on weekdays. The circulation of people increases and a lot when it is a school day. Just as it is clearly noticeable in traffic, that with the return to face-to-face classes, the little social distance would have ended, the one whose best recorded rates never reached 60% in SP, when the recommended level was around 75%.

Imagine public transport on school days, what would it be like?

International experiences show that wherever face-to-face classes return, the number of infected and distanced people increases very quickly. in Mississippi[iv], US state, dozens of students and teachers became infected in just 11 days. in Georgia[v] (also in the US) more than 800 people were quarantined after a single student was confirmed to have the disease.

South Korea, France and several other countries have had outbreaks despite all the care and schools are going through cycles of opening and closing again. Sweden that has never closed schools has seen a big drop in the infection rate around school holidays.

There is still a lot of controversy about how much children, adolescents can be contamination vectors. There are studies that surprised that children can have viral loads up to 100 times higher than adults and, on the other hand, there are studies that show that those who were contaminated by exposure to high viral loads had the disease in the most severe form. This means that, although the number of children and adolescents who develop the most severe forms is really small, they can lead to workers falling ill with these more serious forms and this has an impact on the death of these professionals and also transport workers, relatives among others, increasing the risk or deepening the collapse of the health system, which again increases the number of lives lost.

There are studies that indicate that children transmit little of the virus and that this would be enough for the opening of schools. That study (cited by Trump) had a small population and is still questioned by many scientists. And the objective fact is that an increase in the number of infected people has been observed shortly after the reopening of schools, indicating a correlation between the two facts (except the Chinese who have applied extremely strict sanitary measures in schools in a disciplined population).

Returning to Brazil, where education workers are poorly paid, schools have always experienced dramatic situations of lack of structure and hygiene and cleaning material, in a culture where touching, especially among children and adolescents, is frequent, where there are few teachers by children and crowded rooms and where, when returning home, children from the periphery and rural communities will crowd into transport and live in small homes with a large number of residents, the reopening of schools would transform the humanitarian tragedy that we are experiencing, where we are heading towards the 150 thousand deaths, for the possible loss of millions of lives (remember that the correlation in the infection of this disease is of exponential growth).

And the fact is that it has mainly been the union struggle to prevent irresponsible attempts to return to face-to-face classes. There is a lot of pressure from the press (here in SC, a certain rental fee[vi] he's been calling professors lazy, who would be getting paid without working, just to give an example), businessmen (who want to return to their lucrative activities, which is impossible if workers can't go to factories and businesses, and the fact that their children workers being out of class makes it difficult to organize this return – did you not believe that they are concerned about the children's learning?), politicians who work for these entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurs themselves who sell education, whose businesses are known as private schools, by authorization of the opening of schools, reaching the point of releasing that infamous institutional video by the Employers Union of Private Schools in RJ[vii], the privatized collective transport entrepreneurs themselves who know that the demand for the service is directly linked to the operation of schools and universities and finally, including some mothers and fathers whose precarious jobs are made very difficult by the presence of children at home, which create a huge attention demand.

The unions linked to the National Confederation of Workers in Education - CNTE da CUT, SINASEFE, ANDES and many others have ultimately held in their arms the maintenance of the suspension of face-to-face classes, which has meant maintaining the minimum social distance that has been maintained and, consequently, has saved hundreds of thousands of lives of Brazilian men and women. This is the greatest achievement of Brazilian trade unionism, which tends to be so attacked and disrespected and never recognized for how important it is for Brazil. Another important player in this achievement is the Student Movement.

In exchange, public education workers had their salaries frozen and rights suspended until 2021 by Law 173/2020 after the veto of President Enemy of Education with lies spread about that these professionals would be wanting to receive a salary increase while they are receiving it without working and the others losing their jobs and going hungry. First, it should be noted that the loss of jobs was already a reality before the pandemic, but, on the contrary, the maintenance of the remuneration of these people, wage earners, has kept the economy busy, since they spend everything they receive consuming in the local market, which which prevents job losses. Second, hunger is not the responsibility of those working in education and health (do you know any teachers or maharaja nurses? Or is it the judge and the businessman?), but it is the responsibility of the federal government that the only measure implemented by its government to avoid - it was forced down his throat by Congress, which is the emergency aid proposed by the opposition parties, notably the PT. Third, it is simply false to say that teachers and other education workers are earning without working: many education networks and institutions have adopted very problematic remote teaching models (among them the municipal network of Florianópolis, the State Network of SC and the IFSC), many imposing an absurd workload because making a 10-minute video class takes a few hours of work, for example. And even where remote teaching has not yet started or should not start, workers are keeping in touch with students to address emotional and dietary needs, among others, and there are numerous work meetings to monitor the situation, develop possibilities, study alternative organization of the teaching-learning process, work planning, etc.

It is important to remember that the children of education workers are also at home and that these women are burdened with taking care of family members, housework, children and working without the necessary conditions. And universities and technological institutes maintain research and extension work that is fundamental in times of a pandemic (as in the study carried out at UFSC that detected the COVID 19 virus in sewage samples from November 2019 or in the creation of an efficient respirator project, with installed capacity of national production. In the extension work, it has been acting in the production and distribution of frontal masks for distribution to health professionals, gel alcohol for distribution in poor communities and for people in street situation etc).

In a country with records of deaths from accidents at work like ours, union organization has always saved lives. But this has never been so explicitly true as in the case of COVID 19 and the union struggle to maintain the suspension of face-to-face classes.

Only struggle changes life!

In-person classes only with vaccine!

Those who lost the year were those who lost their lives, your son has his whole life ahead of him to recover his learning! Suspend the calendar!

Postpone ENEM!

*Elenira Vilela She is a professor and member of the national board of the National Union of Federal Servants of Basic, Professional and Technological Education (SINASEFE).

Notes


[I]http://portal.inep.gov.br/artigo/-/asset_publisher/B4AQV9zFY7Bv/content/matriculas-em-creches-publicas-crescem-em-2019-ensino-medio-em-tempo-integral-tambem-registra-crescimento/21206

[ii]https://brasil.elpais.com/sociedade/2020-06-17/colocar-20-criancas-numa-sala-de-aula-implica-em-808-contatos-cruzados-em-dois-dias-alerta-universidade.html

[iii]          https://g1.globo.com/ciencia-e-saude/noticia/2018/10/17/estudo-da-onu-aponta-que-tamanho-das-familias-no-brasil-esta-abaixo-da-media-mundial.ghtml

[iv]          https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/within-11-days-of-schools-opening-dozens-of-students-and-teachers-have-gotten-covid-19-i-truly-wish-we-d-kept-our-children-home/ar-BB17ELoN

[v]          https://educacao.uol.com.br/noticias/2020/08/15/volta-as-aulas-pelo-mundo.htme

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/31/us/coronavirus-school-reopening-risk.html

[vi]          http://www.sintrasem.org.br/Default/Noticia/15028/moacir-pereira-jornalismo-pedante-e-lambe-botas-do-capital

[vii]         https://www.redebrasilatual.com.br/educacao/2020/07/professores-do-rio-repudio-a-video-patronal-e-greve-contra-a-volta-as-aulas/

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