COVID-19: Guides on the education and protection of children and adolescents

April 9, 2020

At this time of crisis, the National Campaign for the Right to Education (CNDE), a member of CLADE in Brazil, in alliance with the Cada Criança platform, has made available two guides aimed at families, schools, local social security agents and authorities so that they can guarantee the protection and education of children and adolescents.

"The goal is to offer verified and accessible information on how citizens linked to education can act, demand and work for the protection of all and in a collaborative way and also, by public authorities, guarantee the rights of girls and boys and adolescents in emergency situations" says CNDE.

Read below a summary of the guides in English or download here the complete document in Portuguese aimed at families and education professionals, and the guide for authorities here.

1) Suspending the constitutional amendment 95

The whole constitutional structure of social protection must be and must be strengthened, because inequality is also a factor in aggravating the impact of the disease. We cannot face the coronavirus with tea. Just as health and education cannot be guaranteed by reduced funding, already aggravated by EC 95, which has weakened the state's capacity to provide adequate responses to emergencies such as the coronavirus.

The Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education reaffirms its historical commitment to repudiate EC 95/2016 for its adverse effects on public education. In summary, EC 95 practically excludes the objectives and strategies of the National Education Plan 2014-2024 (Law 13 005/2014). The position of the petition also corroborates the fight of the Campaign for the Protection of School Meals during the new National Fund for Basic Education - Fundeb. The text also presents data on the dismantling of the FNDE (National Fund for the Development of Education), which has reduced investment in food for almost a decade.

Brazil has been suffering from the Expenditure Ceiling for 3 years: during this period there has been no new investment of resources in health, assistance, education, among other essential areas. The effects? Health has lost R$ 30 bi (USD 6 bi) and education R$ 99.5 bi (USD 20 bi).

Entities related to the defense of human rights filed a petition with the Federal Supreme Court on March 17 for the immediate suspension of Constitutional Amendment 95 of 2016 (of the spending cap). The motivation is urgent because the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic endangers the functioning of the Unified Health System (SUS) and, due to the suspension of classes in public schools and the impossibility of providing snacks, exposes thousands of people. children and adolescents to misery and hunger. The context of extreme fragility of social policies and impoverishment of the population, the entities say, shows that the pandemic may lead to the collapse of the health system and its effects will extend beyond 2020.

2) Creation of an emergency fund for the defence of work and income

What can you do, the government decision-maker?

  • Support and publicize the idea of the Basic Emergency Income (rendabasica.org.br) in the media of the state, municipality or other public institution.
  • Filing, by electronic means, of a request to intervene at the Presidency of the Republic
  • Articulate with parliamentarians to extend the service and the amount proposed by the government. There are plans in the Senate and the House to ensure a basic emergency income
  • Exempting vulnerable people from paying Internet, water, electricity and gas charges for the duration of the pandemic
  • Ensure uninterrupted supply of these inputs even in the event of non-payment. Essential conditions for the poorest people to protect themselves at home during quarantine
  • Creating non-refundable credit agreements for small business owners
  • Develop minimum income programs at the municipal, state, district or federal level, using existing enrolments

3) 8 reasons for not replacing face-to-face education with distance education (DE) during the pandemic

The suspension of the networks' school calendar is the only way out and must be rethought in the light of the normalization of the health situation in the country, through dialogue between the National, State, District and Municipal Education Councils and their respective guidelines.

  1. There is a lack of discussion of the proposals and listening to the networks. Many schools, especially public schools, do not have infrastructures for this modality, they do not have platforms, teachers with adequate training to work with the modality, and are not, like the students, suitable for this alternative.
  2. The numerically excluded must be considered. In Brazil, only 42% of households have a computer and in households with a family income below 2 minimum wages, this percentage decreases even more. Similarly, Internet access is also unequal, especially in rural áreas (data from the 2018 ICT Household Survey of Cetic (Regional Centre for Studies for the Development of the Information Society).
  3. Distance education is impossible and illegal for early childhood education. To learn more about this subject, read the public positions of Undime Nacional (National Union of Municipal Education Directors) and the National Early Childhood Network (RNPI) on th subject.
  4. Distance education is not suitable for elementary school, as the child has yet to develop the autonomy, concentration capacity and self-discipline necessary for the modality.
  5. Distance learning is not a reality for the high school. Require a complex adaptation structure, with participation, pedagogical adequacy, conditions to support teaching and learning, apart from the social problems of exclusion and unequal access to adequate infrastructures.
  6. Distance education complicates the management of the network. It institutes diferente ways of operating teaching units within the same network, which would now have several timetables, making it difficult to manage the network and the training, monitoring and evaluation of its units.
  7. There are setbacks even in higher education. Some universities which had reported using this strategy for all their students are abandoning the alternative in the face of difficulties encountered and reported by the students themselves.
  8. There is the opportunism of technology and communication companies and the risk of appropriation and privatization of data. According to the Open Education Initiative, free online courses, for example, tend to mask business models in which companies profit from exploiting their users' data to offer products and services, so-called "surveillance capitalism".

Distance education is an educational modality that requires planning, technical and technological resources, vocational training, and a hybrid model of delivery, in order to adapt to the reality of the subjects, it is not suitable for basic education as a whole. It is a mistake to think that distance education is done by transposing classes into a virtual environment, or to transform virtual learning environments into text and video repositories, so that schools and networks are up to date with their duty to educate.

Although there are legal provisions for distance education at certain levels of education (Decree No. 9,057 of 25 May 2017), it is considered "complementary" or "emergency" in primary education (§ 4 of art. 32 of Law No. 9.394, of 20 December 1996) and in the form of agreements to meet the curricular requirements of high school (§ 11 of art. 36 of Law No. 9.394, of 1996). In early childhood education, distance education is unsustainable and illegal.

For these reasons, distance education in basic education and in place of classes is wrong in several respects.

Our suggestion is that educational networks should be able to offer complementary activities to students, that the official school calendar should be made more flexible (and that distance courses in the form of complementary activities should not be counted as school days) so that courses can be replaced by 2021 if necessary, that educational networks should not create long-term public-private partnerships and/or sell student and school network data, and that a network of dialogue between schools and families should be built to provide mutual support in this complex time. In more detail :

  • It should be recalled that, in the context of the reorganization of school calendars, it must be ensured that class replacements and the execution of activities can be carried out in such a way as to preserve the quality standard provided for in point IX of Article 3 of the Law on National Education Directors and Bases (LDB) and in point VII of Article 206 of the Federal Constitution. (MEC - National Education Council - 18/03/2020)

  • Paragraph 2, Art. 23, para. 2 of the BEDA stipulates that the school calendar must be adapted to local circumstances, including climatic and economic conditions, at the discretion of the respective education system, without reducing the number of teaching hours provided for in the Act.

  • LDB does not link a school year to a calendar year, i.e. the school year does not necessarily have to end between the first and last day of a given year. What the law requires is that the school year must have at least 200 days and 800 hours. Art. 47 emphasizes that in higher education, the ordinary school year, whatever the calendar year, has at least two hundred days of effective academic work, excluding the time reserved for final examinations, if any.

  • We stress the possibility of organizing timetables that make it possible to compensate for school hours, as well as supervised activities that can be carried out outside school hours, as has already been done with students who are experiencing situations in which their health conditions do not allow them to attend school. Decree-Law No. 1,044 of 21 October 1969, Act No. 6,202 of 1975, Act No. 6,503 of 1977, Act No. 7,692 of 1988. In this case, the health emergency decreed by the Federal Government makes it possible to say that the compulsory absence from school, in this case, is aimed at preserving the collective health of all Brazilians. These laws deal with the practice of physical education and exceptional cases of students and not with the calendar of the network.

  • Another important legal recommendation to be observed is the CNE / CEB Opinion No. 19/2009, which guided the reorganization of school calendars after the suspension of classes due to the "influenza A" epidemic, in which the rapporteur Cesar Callegari analyses the right of the pupil to 200 school days in relation to his right to life, established in the Federal Constitution.

  • In order to ensure that this restructuring of the timetable is carried out in a responsible manner that respects the quality of education provided by the LDB, the opinion also calls for the involvement of the entire school community: families, students, education professionals, as well as regulatory bodies and education secretariats.

This is not, however, what has happened with state education networks - mainly responsible for secondary education - which have forcibly implemented teacher distance learning models without any support. Teachers have indicated that they have to learn how to create and edit videos, use complex platforms and are exhausted in their forties, whose daily time is divided between preparing lessons, recording videos, editing videos, using digital platforms, answering questions online and at the same time taking care of their children and family and taking care of

4) COVID-19: How should school meals be?

We know that one of the major problems we have been facing since the closure of schools is the fact that countless children depend on school meals as a basic source of food.

The education authorities intend to create flexibility in the distribution of food, which is currently not provided for in legislation. The aim is to enable municipal and state entities to distribute food from warehouses and make it available in the form of kits to the families of students, taking into account the student's enrolment deposit.

In an effort to address this concern, the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE), in collaboration with the state (Consed) and municipal (Undime) secretaries and the Ministry of the Economy, is working on a technical document to create flexibility with regard to food distribution, which is currently not provided for in legislation.

The aim is to enable municipal and State entities to distribute food from warehouses and make it available in the form of kits to the families of students, taking into account the student's enrolment deposit.

WHAT DO TWO REFERENCES IN THE THEME ON THE RIGHT TO SCHOOL FOOD HAVE TO SAY?

The Milan Pact on Urban Food Policy, a commitment to the development of sustainable food systems and the promotion of healthy food, recommended among the actions for school meals:

"Adapt benchmarks and rules to make sustainable diets and drinking water available in public sector services", including schools and hospitals, and "reorient school feeding programmes and other institutional food-related services to provide healthy, locally and regionally produced food in a seasonal and sustainable manner".

The National School Feeding Programme (PNAE), popularly known as School Meals and managed by the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE), is one of the largest school feeding programmes in the world, including the provision of differentiated foods for students with dietary restrictions (diabetes, celiac disease, among others).

Through the PNAE, R$ 900 million has already been transferred this year to states and municipalities.

The PNAE aims to transfer financial resources to the states, the Federal District and the municipalities, based on the number of students enrolled in their respective networks, to partially meet their nutritional needs.

The PNAE is coordinated by nutritionists and supervised by civil society through the School Food Councils (CAE), the FNDE, the Federal Court of Auditors (TCU), the Federal Comptroller General (CGU) and the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The PNAE also provides a guide on school feeding for people with diabetes, hypertension, celiac disease, phenylketonuria and lactose intolerance.

It was suggested that the program fund be continued and distributed to the population through a credit system to develop the school agglomerations.

5) COVID-19: Risks related to child labour and the socio-educational system 

Child Labour

In a context of global crisis that extrapolates public health with the Covid-19 pandemic, the trend of increasing child labour in Brazil and around the world is a reality.

Indeed, a large part of child labour is carried out in domestic environments. As the situation of social security and the financial viability of families tends to worsen during this period, the chances of more children working are high.

In such cases, there is a need for local social welfare officers to continue to carry out their service and inspection work - at least remotely. During our research, we were unable to find any information on new service models or ways to activate these protection agencies during the quarantine period.

Socio-educational system (prisons)

Similarly, the guarantee of the right to life and health of girls and boys deprived of their liberty (in the socio-educational system) cannot be neglected!

It is in the Statute of the Child and Adolescent (art. 5): "No child or adolescent shall be subject to neglect, discrimination, exploitation, violence, cruelty and oppression, or to any act, omission or act punishable by law, as fundamental rights. "

The protection of life and the right to health is a right for all children and adolescents, without discrimination (see Article 7 of the Statute of Children and Adolescents - SCA).

Due to the high transmissibility index of COVID-19, it will certainly lead to a significant increase in the risk of contagion in socio-educational units (prisons), taking into account factors such as overcrowding, the insalubrity of these units, difficulties in ensuring compliance with minimum hygiene and sanitation procedures, rapid isolation of symptomatic individuals and insufficient health teams;

➔ Know the recommendations and directives of the National Council of Justice (CNJ) in the framework of COVID-19 (Recommendation No. 62/2020).
I) Adoption of preventive measures for the spread of infection in the socio-educational system;

II) preferential application of socio-educational measures in an open environment (Assisted Freedom and Community Service) and review of the decisions that determined temporary hospitalization;

III) re-evaluation of the socio-educational measures of hospitalization and semi-liberty, with the aim of replacing them with a measure of indefinite duration, suspension or remission;

IV) re-evaluation of the decisions that determined the application of the hospitalization sanction;

V) the procedures to be adopted for suspected or confirmed cases;

VI) visiting rules; among other measures.

We must demand that agencies and public authorities guarantee the effectiveness of these measures.

6) Violence and Sexual Abuse: Guide for the Education and Protection of Children and Adolescents during COVID-19

Most victims of sexual violence are children and adolescents (0-17 years) and women. And as a characteristic of the profile of the aggressor, most of them are people from the Family circle or are known.

Sexual violence is any act that compels the child or adolescent to perform or attend a carnal conjunction or any other act of a sexual nature, including exposing the body in a photo or video by electronic or other means (art. 4, paragraph 3, Law 13.431 / 2017 ).

WHAT CAN I DO?

  • Listen to the children and teenagers around you, think about their opinions.

  • Be a support in this violent situation!

  • Seek advice, report it to the responsible agencies and seek health care so that a proper investigation can take place and, above all, so that all protective measures for the victim can be implemented.

  • Download and use the Protect Brazil application

  • Look for reliable offices and NGOs on human rights and the rights of children and adolescents.

  • Look for the Human Rights Commission of the legislatures (municipal councils and legislatures).