The education ministers for the three language communities in Belgium are in talks aimed at the introduction of a new social contact ‘bubble’ for students, according to reports.
The news comes from the office of Valérie Glatigny, minister for higher education in the French Community, who is reported to be in talks with her counterparts Ben Weyts (Flemish Community) and Lydia Klinkenberg (German-speaking Community).
The initiative comes in response to widespread calls from various quarters for something to be done to help students and young people in general, who are regarded to be more seriously affected by the restrictive measures imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Students are particularly affected, as they are in most cases away from home and so deprived of that set of contacts, while the normal social life that would be expected for young people away from home for the first time is no longer available, and has not been for almost a year.
The plan would be to create a social bubble specific to student living, already christened the ‘kotbubbel’ in reference to the student bedsit or kot that many inhabit during term.
That would consist of a circle of six students, who would be allowed to interact with each other, although one bubble would not be allowed to interact with another bubble.
“They desperately need contacts, but the idea is not that there are interactions between the bubbles,” Glatigny said in an interview with Le Soir. “We will appeal to the sense of responsibility and solidarity of young people.”
The three ministers have agreed an outline for the creation of the kotbubbel, she said, based on the advice of youth psychologists and health experts (though not virologists, who appear to be in political purdah for the time being).
The idea appears simple, and it is, she said.
“We know that this corresponds to reality. One of the vectors of contamination a few months ago was the shuttle between kot and family. Today we are encouraging students to choose between home and campus, obviously not to stop going home, but to do so less often to avoid the mixing of age groups. So: more interaction between peers but less commuting.”