Belgium in Brief: The school charade

Belgium in Brief: The school charade

The return to school after holidays always comes with a cocktail of conflicting emotions – excitement for kids seeing friends, relief for parents, anticipation for the term ahead, longing for the summer…

This year many pupils enjoyed (hopefully) an extended end-of-year holiday since nurseries and primary schools were closed a week early to prevent the rampant coronavirus spread. However, despite the early closure at first succeeding in lowering transmission rates, the Omicron variant soon undid much of this with Belgium now seeing some of the highest infection rates since the pandemic first struck.

Last-minute alterations were brought in to prevent a chaotic start to the teaching term but it is clear that with the best will in the world (and a drive for pupil vaccinations), schools will not escape the impact of the new Omicron wave. Keeping them open will be a considerable challenge with disruptions all but inevitable.

One major fear is that schools already struggling to fill staff vacancies will now be hit with further shortages as staff become infected. This will make staying open nigh-on impossible – particularly for smaller institutions.

The spokesperson for the Flemish Education Minister admitted that “the virus is everywhere and education will not be able to escape it.” Yet the underlying concern is not simply whether kids can continue going to school, but how the quality of education itself will be affected.

With so much attention paid to the developing health situation and the restrictions that go with it, teachers and pupils could be forgiven for being distracted from the entire point of school: teaching and learning.

In this sense, the whole principle of education becomes a charade with the ever-evolving restrictions getting in the way of learning itself rather than facilitating it. How long it will go on for is anybody’s guess.

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1. Over 30 people arrested at protest against Covid measures in Brussels

The Brussels police arrested over 30 people during a demonstration against Belgium’s coronavirus measures on Sunday afternoon. Read more.

2. Warnings that Covid will spread ‘like wildfire’ as schools reopen

As Belgium faces a rapid increase in new cases, schools across the country are reopening on Monday after the Christmas break, sparking fears that the virus will rampage through classrooms. Read more.


3. It’s not just the statues, Belgium must atone for what it did in Congo

Princess Esmeralda of Belgium explains that removing the statues of her great-granduncle Leopold II is just a first step. Belgium must also apologise for its colonial atrocities, start teaching the true history of what it did in Congo, and begin a conversation about reparations. Read more.

4. Coronavirus cases up 84%, hospitalisations continue to rise

Since 3 January, over 20,000 new Covid-19 cases have been recorded every day in Belgium, with an average of 182 people admitted to the hospital daily, according to preliminary figures announced on Monday by the cabinet of Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Read more.

5. MSF withdraws from Polish border after being denied access to treat migrants

The international humanitarian organisation Médecins sans frontières (MSF) withdrew from the Polish border with Belarus last week after their doctors were repeatedly denied access to treat migrants and refugees. Read more.

6. Teacher shortage worse than ever: ‘Chaos in the coming weeks’

The teaching shortage for Dutch-language schools is reaching critical levels in Belgium, with at least 2,000 positions for full-time teachers still unfilled. Read more.

7. Hidden Belgium: Mofelito Paperito

This tiny shop with an old Belgian tiled floor and a quirky name sells rare luxury notebooks, writing equipment, city guides and maps. Read more.

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