Panama, Mar 31 (EFE) .- Only 18 of the more than 3,150 public schools in Panama now comply with biosecurity measures to receive students after more than a year closed due to the pandemic, the Government said on Wednesday, launching a plan to rehabilitate 824 schools in three months with a view to their reopening.

Panama developed the entire 2020 school year remotely and began this 2021 with the same modality. A report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) ranked this country as the country that has remained the longest in the world with schools closed in the framework of the pandemic.

Groups of parents have demonstrated in the street to demand that they return to classrooms given that distance education is deficient, but teacher associations have denounced that the vast majority of schools are not prepared for it.

In this context, President Laurentino Cortizo installed the 2021 National School Operation Center (Conescuelas) on Wednesday, so that “more schools are in optimal conditions for a progressive and reliable return to blended classes” on an unspecified date.

This center “will take the project to impact 824 official educational centers, 25 of which are emblematic, and will benefit 334,009 students with an investment of 3.2 million dollars,” an official statement said.

Among the works that will be carried out at the 824 educational establishments are “provision of drinking water, electricity, plumbing, painting, roof repair, blacksmithing and access”, according to the government letter.

Data from the Ministry of Education (Meduca) indicate that in the public sector “at the moment there are 18 Safe Schools that (…) comply with biosafety measures to reduce the risk of contagion of covid-19.”

Only 4 of those 18 schools are in the metropolitan area of ​​the capital, while the rest are in the interior provinces of Los Santos, Herrera and Chiriquí, according to official information.

“In these 18 educational structures and in the remaining 3,150 schools throughout the country, Meduca invests 3,223,700 for maintenance and electrical work, plumbing, painting, roof repair, blacksmithing, cleaning and safe spaces for accessibility” said the release.

With regard to private schools, “60% comply with the biosafety adjustments in their facilities,” said the Minister of Education, Maruja Gorday.

Panama has about 800,000 students, of which some 160,000 attend around 700 private schools, according to data from the sector.

(c) EFE Agency

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