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Academics plead for February reopening of lecture halls

Credit: Belga

Some twenty teachers from the north and south of the country wrote a plea for the reopening of the auditoriums when classes restart in February.

The “situation is not tenable” for students, they said on Thursday. The academics believe that in view of the evolution of the epidemic in Belgium, a reopening, even a partial one, is possible.

The plea had already gathered nearly 1,200 signatures from professors, students and parents as of Friday afternoon.

First of all, the academics underlined the real need for mental health care for the population. “In our universities and colleges, it is imperative that we take care of our students and offer them a way out of the confinement in which they are trapped,” they said.

Furthermore, according to WHO criteria, all educational institutions must be opened with infection control measures, they pointed out.

Added to this is the fact that the incidence level of the epidemic in Belgium in the 20-29 age group has been at a maximum of 1.5 per 1,000 over 7 days since the beginning of December. “The risk of having an undetected contagious student in an audience is therefore very low,” they explained.

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“The minister (of Higher Education) had envisaged a reopening in March, but we fear a resumption of the epidemic. We therefore want to make maximum use of the time we have between the different waves to welcome students,” explained one of the authors behind the text, Christine Dupont, vice-dean of the Faculty of Bioengineers at UCLouvain.

The professors also believe that it would be quite possible to define a protocol for resuming activities in a secure manner, using rapid tests they say are “currently under-exploited,” university laboratories, and multidisciplinary study and monitoring capacities within the universities.

Finally, academics call for trust in students’ sense of responsibility. “Should they not this time be given the opportunity to become active participants in the pursuit of their studies? “they conclude.

The professors behind the advocacy are academics from all disciplines and from different academic institutions across the country.

The Brussels Times