Achieving the objective of keeping schools open and safe requires appropriate measures, Child Commissioner Despo Michalidou said on Friday, highlighting the negative effects of closed schools and urging parents to trust their children.
Michaelidou said the European Network of Child Commissioners had set as its main objective to keep schools open and safe.
“Abstention from the school community, the closure of schools was a factor for lost experiences, isolation, insecurity and instability, elements that scientists said had significant psychosocial effects on children,” Michaelidou said in a written statement.
She said keeping schools open and safe meant the need of putting in place appropriate measures “adjusted to the epidemiological data of the respective time period.”
Michaelidou added that when making decisions that concern children, the authorities must take into consideration all existing, dangers large or small, and put in place measures to secure the child’s interests and rights.
The commissioner said such measures should not be across-the-board, but alternative ways of protection must be sought, taking into account the specific characteristics of each child or group of children.
“In any case however, any decision on any new measures cannot victimise the children themselves, and in the particular case, children whose parents did not or will not consent to the implementation of the measures,” she said. “Pedagogical and other ways should be sought by the school community so as to achieve the desired result.”
She was speaking after cabinet decided on Wednesday that masks must be worn by all schoolchildren from the age of six as of Monday while mobile testing units will go to schools to give rapid tests to all children once a week. On Thursday the health ministry said next month coronavirus vaccines will be available for children from the age of five.
The commissioner said children must be trusted.
“Children are aware of the political, social, and health situation and their protection or removal from the social goings-on hurts the overall development of their personality. We can trust them, trust their ability to adjust and their contribution to the universal effort underway in the past two years to reign in the pandemic,” Michaelidou said.
Adult concerns regarding the use of a mask or testing are understandable, she added.
“However, with the close cooperation of the entire school community (parents, teachers, children) I am certain that it can be achieved. Encouraging and implementing creative and child friendly team activities contribute towards the cultivation of a culture of understanding and respect of the value of public health, which is necessary for the operation of schools.”
On Thursday demonstrating parents said they would further protest on Monday and keep their children out of school if their demands are not met.
Michaelidou urged schools to find imaginative ways of cooperation so that children work collectively towards the same direction.