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School reopening causes no spike in coronavirus infections

Published : 17 Jun 2020, 23:51

  DF News Desk

A school in Rovaniemi. DF File Photo.

The reopening of schools in Finland in mid-May did not cause an increase in COVID-19 infection rates among school-aged children nationwide, reported Xinhua, quoting Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Education Minister Li Andersson on Wednesday thanked the schools for their efforts in curbing the infection while "securing" the students' right to education.

Grades 1 to 9 reopened their doors on May 14 after a nearly three-month closure due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Most of the 530,000-odd students returned to the classrooms, while distance learning continued for students who are high risk for virus infection.

According to the THL, the country's schools have reported no chains of infection. However, in seven southern municipalities, 16 students and seven adult school employees have been confirmed as infected or severely exposed since the reopening of their schools.

During the two-week reopening period before the summer holiday, contacts between different classroom groups were kept to the minimum and students remained in the same classroom throughout the day. Classes were also kept separate during the school luncheons.

A survey conducted by national broadcaster Yle has indicated, however, that the nearly three months of distance learning experience has increased the impact of the students' socio-economic status on their performance. Not all parents were able to assist their children at home. Some schools could not provide laptops to their students, while others had to rely on mobile phones. Much also depended on how computer savvy the teachers were.

Interviewed on Yle, Sami Nykänen, headmaster of a school in Tampere, said that if distance learning comes back in the autumn, the core principles of the Finnish comprehensive school system may be endangered.

"The differences between pupils will grow," he said. One of the aims of the Finnish school reform in the 1970s was to eliminate the impact of conditions at home on the students' school performance.