I am a mother and a teacher, and I have been fighting for months a safe return to the classroom for both students and teachers. I also suffer from a chronic disease for which I must receive immunosuppressive hospital treatment on a regular basis. As a result, my defenses are weakened and I am deficient in vitamin D, which has proven crucial in fighting the virus.
The reason why I decided to write this letter is to try to denounce an alarming situation caused by the pandemic: the fact that, in various autonomous communities, at-risk teachers are being forced to join their work centers without the necessary security measures being met
front to the virus. We are talking about pregnant teachers and teachers with one or more risk pathologies such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney failure and immunodeficiency, among others.
The ratios we face are up to 25 students per classroom in Infant and Primary and up to 35 in Secondary, that is, similar figures to those used before the pandemic.
In addition, not all centers can fulfill the mandate of keep distance 1.5 meter safety, as they do not have enough space to do so. In order to comply with the guidelines sent by the corresponding educational authorities, some centers are forced to ask teachers to open and close the windows to ventilate and to spray, one by one, the tables of their students in order to disinfect them (and all this while the students are still seated at their desks). Not to mention the common spaces such as corridors, stairways, patios and teachers’ rooms, where social distancing is often conspicuous by its absence.
Regarding ventilation, to show a button: there are colleagues who are teaching in windowless basements, and others who cannot open it because the traffic noise does not allow them to teach. Conclusion: teachers and students spend several hours a day in closed spaces, poorly ventilated, in direct and close contact with each other. And we are talking about a teacher in an urban center having, on average, about 150 students, not counting substitutions or indirect contacts, since several hundred people live together in the same building every day. Another added problem is that of itinerant teachers, who must travel to several centers, multiplying the risk of both being infected and spreading the virus.
Regarding the use of masks, it should be said that students from 0 to 6 years old are not obliged to wear them, so teachers – and especially those at risk and pregnant women, are totally exposed. From 6 years old, children come to the center with their own mask (the authorities, as a general rule, have sent surgical-type masks only for emergency cases), some of doubtful efficiency and origin, of which We make no guarantee that they will be changed frequently or properly disinfected. And of course, we are human beings who need to drink, sneeze, blow our noses … so the masks are frequently removed in the classroom by the students.
The most bleeding thing of all is that the justification that we are being given to teachers with risky pathologies to force us to come to our center in these unfortunate conditions is that we do not run any type of risk, since our students are asymptomatic, which it does not mean not being a carrier of the virus. In fact, we are several teachers who have already been informed of positive cases confirmed in our centers just a week and a half from the start of classes.
As a culmination of this accumulation of nonsense, despite the fact that there is an action procedure for occupational risk prevention services in the face of exposure to Covid both at the national and regional level, which establishes the Obligation to defend especially sensitive workersIt is not being applied to teachers and we do not understand why. Other workers in our circumstance have the right to adapt their job to make it a safe environment, to telework or to be reassigned to a position with less exposure to risk.
As a teacher, I have been trying for years to help the children of many and very diverse families grow up healthy and happy. But now the time has come to try to defend my rights and those of other teachers with risky pathologies. We ask neither more nor less than other workers: a safe work environment for us and our students.
* Patricia de la Fuente López is a teacher and lives in Valladolid.
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