Voices are growing in favor reopening schools in Panama

As children in Panama head back to school (virtually), parents and educators are speaking up, and many are in favor are reopening schools.

Among these voices are 19 national and international organizations, all calling for the safe reopening of schools, in an effort to avoid an "increase in educational exclusion".

Photo: La Prensa

Educational Exclusion in Panama

Educational exclusion is the inability to participate and learn in the classroom.  It does not only mean “out-of-school." It has many forms and expressions. 
For example: living under conditions inadequate for health and wellbeing, not having the money to pay tuition, uniform, or internet to access virtual platforms. 

Educational exclusion in Panama will increase by 19%. (The study The educational costs of the health crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean, prepared by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Center for Educational and Social Studies) 

Distance Education in Panama

March 1st, 2021, students in Panama began the 2021 school year virtually. The first quarter of this 2021 school year will be remote due to the Covid-19 pandemic Ministry of Education (Meduca).

46,000 students were out of school last year in Panama.  Ministry of Education (Meduca). This is just the number of students that were not registered for school. It does not account for those who were registered but did not complete the year, could not attend regularly, did not have access to the internet, etc. 

Approximately 1.3 million inhabitants - distributed in 368 communities in the country - do not have an internet connection. (The National Authority of Public Services (ASEP))

Voices are growing in favor of the reopening of schools in Panama 

At least 895 thousand students, of which 145 thousand correspond to the private sector, began the first quarter of the school year on March 1st in Panama.  The Union of Private Schools and parents’ associations has already asked the Ministry of Education (Meduca) to launch a pilot plan so that interested schools can offer blended education (partially virtual and partially in-person learning). 

There is also a campaign seeking to generate a public debate on the consequences of the prolonged closure of schools for minors in Panama. The coordinator of the United Nations System in Panama, Cristian Munduate; the acting representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Alejandra Trossero, and the director of the Foundation for the Promotion of Educational Excellence, Aida Alfaro all spoke in favor of this campaign. The pro-tempore coordinator of Aliados por la Niñez y Adolescencia, Malena Sáenz, and the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, Jean Pierre Leignadier also were in favor. 

"The educational decline in the country and the region has a direct impact on the next generations that make up society. "Not being educated and being left out of the educational system is to deprive our children and young people of civic, social and professional capacities, which determine our development as a nation." 

- Antonio Castillo (Copeme) 

Meduca speaks to widening Gaps 

" While module distance education implemented by Meduca has made it possible to guarantee continuity for many children and adolescents, there is still a large gap in equal access to education. For this reason, Meduca  considers that the safe and gradual reopening of schools is the best alternative so that the most vulnerable minors can access education." 

- La Prensa asked Meduca for an opinion on a pilot plan for blended education, at the time of publishing there was no response.