Biggest challenge in education this academic year

Prime Minister Edi Rama at meeting with students and teachers at Leonik Tomeo school to discuss ways how classes will take place as schools prepare to reopen for new academic year: 

 

Good afternoon and thank you for being here!

We are here today to take advantage of this opportunity so that we can communicate with everyone about the big challenge facing the country’s education system in the upcoming academic year, which in addition to the everlasting challenge and the basic reason why the school exists, which is teaching and learning, we must also succeed in terms of protecting the health of everyone as effectively as possible.

It is true that kids and young people are less susceptible to this virus, but it is completely untrue – and everyone should clearly know – that children are totally protected. God forbid it, but serious illness in children with COVID-19 is possible and in most severe cases, the novel coronavirus has claimed lives also among people of this age group, although only a small number, yet the virus has caused death among kids and this should be kept in mind.

Everyone should bear in mind that first and foremost that everything depends on discipline, self-discipline to observe a set of very simple rules, like wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, because the virus can be spread through breathing and very close physical contact, it can be transmitted through the invisible droplets and aerosols when someone speaking close to you and if you don’t wear the mask properly then you may clear the way to the virus to enter your body.

The other aspect is that kids and young people are transmitters of the virus. In other words, a kid may contract the virus, although they are less likely to experience the typical symptoms and effects of the infection, yet they can spread it in their homes and they can infect their grandparents, their parents who may suffer from underlying illness and it could lead to COVID-19 related fatalities.

This is a common challenge with everyone having to play a role and it would suffice one to make a mistake and he can cause many others fall seriously ill.

Here too, just like it is the case in other schools, we see that rigorous measures are already in place. The necessary signage and floor markings pupils and students should follow to enter school building, the disinfection procedures upon entrance, maintaining the physical and social distance from the schoolyard to the classroom, physical space between the teacher and students, the distance between desks are all defined. Yet, all these measures depend on the human factor. It is certainly distressing for you and teachers as well, because this adds to the whole part of the natural distress teachers go through during their daily life and work even when in normal conditions. 

However, I believe that if school and education officials will properly carry out their responsibilities, if teachers and students best perform their duties, the likelihood that we suffer a stronger blow than the one we expect are almost zero. But, if not, then the blow will be really hard.

Of course, Albania is not immune to what is going to happen and what has already happened in other nations with the reopening of schools, when the number of fresh COVID-19 cases has surged, because even if everyone were to act like robots most of the time, it would take just few unavoidable moves for the spread of the virus to take place. What we should do is keeping the new cases within the projections. I don’t whether you keep track of the dynamics of this disease here in the country or around the world, but if you are to look at the number of infections in other countries, you would find out that their number changes, undergoes immediate and rapid growth, you would see different situations that are a result of the fact that this is an ongoing war and it has several stages.

The virus won’t disappear itself and it will take time for it to weaken, whereas whole population becomes immune. Developing a vaccine will take time too. So, it is most likely that this new school year, starting next week and until next year, will take place under such conditions.

I understand it very well how tough it is. Only 15 to 20 minutes have passed since we started this meeting, yet the mask, the temperature, long staying in one place make everything very difficult, but this is a challenge.

The challenges are for the people and we should overcome them.

The other alternative is losing a challenge and the effects would be immeasurable.

In the meantime, we have launched a dedicated educational broadcasting channel, with early learners, primary and secondary students being provided the opportunity to attend lessons and lectures featuring highly experienced and best teachers in Albania. These lessons will help students to compensate learning when classes take place in shifts or in the case when a school may shut down so that it doesn’t become a hotbed for the virus, but the teaching methods via the TV channel can also help students enrich knowledge about a certain subject. So, I would invite everyone to take advantage of this opportunity. I believe very good and qualitative work has been done by teachers and the Ministry of Education to make sure that the educational broadcasting channel is really a qualitative source of information.

You will need to show utmost care when outside school premises, because the chances to transmit the virus are really high. If someone contracts the virus outside the school and sends it to his or her family and then comes back to school, he or she would spread the virus to many other families too.

Everyone should reject the opinions suggesting that this is a common flu, this is an international conspiracy suggesting that is merely a fabrication and it doesn’t exist, because the truth is that people are dying because of the virus. Fortunately, the number of cases is not catastrophic. Indeed, we are experiencing a stable trend, yet we are recording fatalities every day.

Fortunately, the number of fatalities is not significantly higher than it was last year in terms of the deadly diseases, but this means nothing, if, God forbid it, this danger reaches our homes.

It was just a day ago when I was told that a person I knew personally, a friend of my brother, died of coronavirus and he was relatively young. Nobody can determine for sure how and why the virus causes death of someone, while someone else might experience no symptoms of whatsoever. The problem is that many of us may contract the virus, show no symptoms and continue normal daily life. And it is exactly for this reason that everyone should behave as an infected person. We should be careful, because we may have contracted the virus and we are unaware of it, but yet we can transmit it to our family members, friends and relatives.

I am confident that the work we have done so far is a good foundation. Everything will now depend on how we and everyone will observe the rules and it doesn’t take science to abide by these rules. The rules are simple. The disinfectant on your desks is there not to decorate the desk, neither to be used as a spray on each other, but to be used and kept there until is over and be replaced again. In other words, it is made available for you to use as you may touch infected places and therefore you can contract the virus.

I won’t keep you longer here, because you will be staying a lot longer in this classroom starting next week.

I would like to wish everyone strength, courage and every success!

Challenges are made for man. There are challenges we choose to deal with, but there are also challenges that choose us. This is a challenge that has picked us, but it is however a life experience we are being through, overcome and recall by telling it to future generations. 

Thank you!