Excited but nervous, Mexican children return to classrooms

·2-min read

More than a million Mexican schoolchildren returned to classrooms around the country on Monday for the first time in more than a year thanks to an easing of pandemic lockdown measures.

"I'm excited and a little nervous to see my classmates again," said nine-year-old Iris Garcia, who was welcomed back to school in Mexico City by teachers with antibacterial gel and a thermometer.

She wore a mask and was accompanied by her grandfather, who had submitted a medical certificate for her ruling out any symptoms of Covid-19.

Schools in 13 of Mexico's 32 states have been authorized by the government to reopen classrooms following several months of declines in coronavirus cases and deaths.

The education ministry said that 1.6 million children at more than 24,000 schools attended face-to-face classes on Monday.

The return is voluntary and most students have yet to go back.

Those that do will only be able to attend twice a week for four hours a day, and will be offered two additional days of online classes.

Millions of Mexican children have been undergoing distance learning since August last year, posing a challenge for disadvantaged families with no TV or internet.

With more than a quarter of a million Covid-19 deaths, Mexico is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.

But a steady improvement in the situation since a surge in infections at the start of the year has led to a gradual return to normal life.

Nancy Guillen, an elementary school principal in the capital, said that she would initially welcome back a third of her students.

"We're excited because this school is our home," she said.

She acknowledged that some parents were worried about their children being infected with the coronavirus.

So far around a quarter of Mexican adults have had at least one coronavirus vaccine, including most teaching staff who were given priority, but children have yet to be inoculated.

"Our main challenge will be to get the little ones to wear face masks for at least four hours," Guillen said.

According to the government, any school where a coronavirus case is detected must immediately suspend face-to-face classes.

Ivoon Ponciano said it felt strange to be back in school with only a few of her classmates.

"My mother thought it was a good idea to come back. They were very difficult months, weird, with all the face masks and empty streets," the 12-year-old said.

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