“Support for online teaching in the 2020/2021 school year” is the name of a Facebook Group which counts 3.500 members from North Macedonia, and these days, when stil there are many unknowns about the start of the new academic year, the commentaries are reaching the fever pitch. Many parents announced they won’t let their children attend school as, in their own words, their health is of highest priority. Still, despite the request for the teaching to be held online, the Ministry of Education and Science of North Macedonia has confirmed for Meta.mk that in September, the classes will start with the physical presence of primary and secondary school students.

“The youngest pupils will not be able to adhere to the measures envisioned in the proposed protocols. It is impossible to maintain physical distance between them, and their face mask cannot remain uncontaminated the whole time. Eating in the classroom will also pose a serious challenge. The health of the youngest mustn’t be put to the test. It is unacceptable for us. Also, the problems that arise with the autumn period remain – the common cold and flu will mix with COVID-19 and that will be awful. As a result, the health system will crash. The problem remains with secondary school students. The public transportation issues were not solved, its everyday use poses an additional risk and everyone will be exposed. One of the parents with children at the age below 10 should be allowed to be released from work taking into account the children’s age and the inability to remain at home by themselves, especially now when there isn’t any full-day program. Without exception, this alleviation should be in force for the vulnerable groups (the chronically ill, parents with children with special needs, single parents, etc),” these are the requests by the parents who insist on online teaching.

According to them, the online tool which received positive remarks from both the parents and the professors in the past period is Microsoft Teams. This tool can be also used for video conference calls and all sides will be able to successfully master itit no time.

Meta.mk has sought answers from the Ministry for Education and Science (MES) regarding the parents’ requests. At the moment, MES is working on the details about the outlook of the teaching process and what might pose a problem. Deputy Minister Elizabeta Naumovska said that this institution remains adamant that the teaching will take place in a classroom.

“The United Nations recommends teaching with a physical presence and we are a UN member, and that is general recommendation. In all countries worldwide, including our neighboring countries, the teaching will take place in a classroom. This is important not only because students will be able to learn better in classroom, but also concerning socialization and the student’s mental and emotional condition. No one can provide an absolute guarantee that no one will get infected at home. I claim that the children will be safer at school under the supervision of their professors and teachers when they will be obliged to wear masks and to wash their hands. Can the parents guarantee that their children will not get infected? Certainly, they will be safer at school than in pubs or parks, where they are playing every day with other children,” Naumovska says.