Belgium’s schools will be closed and classes suspended this week ahead of the Easter holidays, following a decision taken at the latest Consultative Committee meeting on 24 March.
The closure, which was decided after several days of talks between the federal government and the communities responsible for education, was not unanimously welcomed.
For one, the Consultative Committee’s decision was questioned by the French-speaking community’s education minister, Caroline Désir, in a circular sent to school principals on Thursday.
Closing schools could only be a last resort, Désir has said, given the pedagogical and psychological damage it would generate.
“Schools have not suddenly become the place of all danger, although it is undeniable that infections can occur there,” Désir said. “Children and young people have not suddenly become epidemiological bombs,” she wrote.
The decision was also criticised in Flanders. “I don’t understand targeting children to keep shops open,” said Flemish education minister Ben Weyts. “We have clung to the conviction that, as a society, we must give priority to education, to our children and young people,” he continued, stating that children and schools are not what drives the virus.
Schools are scheduled to reopen on 19 April, in person for all primary and secondary schools.
People under 20 years old make up 128,162 of all confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, or around 14.7% of all 870,757 confirmed cases to date.
The closing of schools is just one of several measures decided by the Consultative Committee. For an overview of all of the latest measures, take a look at this cheat sheet.