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Mexico says 5.2 million dropped out of school in the pandemic

New figures offer some frightening insights into the effects of Covid-19 on students 

An abandoned classroom REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
An abandoned classroom REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir (REUTERS)

Mexico’s president is on a drive to convince people to send their kids back to school in September, and on Friday the government released some frightening figures on what the effects of the pandemic have been on schoolchildren.

The Interior Department says a total of 5.2 million students under 18 did not register for classes last year, and that domestic violence increased 24% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period of 2020, before the pandemic gained force. The department also cited increases in child homicides and teen pregnancies, rises which presumably resulted in part from kids not being at school. The broader effects of the pandemic — cancellation of activities, social distancing and economic pressures — may have also played a role.

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President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says children need to be back in physical classrooms, for social development as much as academic reasons. But given that Mexico is experiencing its highest surge to date in coronavirus infections — but not hospitalizations — many parents are loath to send their kids back to classes.

The high drop-out rate during the pandemic may be due to the fact that many parents in Mexico did not see much value in enrolling their kids in online classes, which have been the only option available in most states since schools closed. Not only is internet coverage spotty in Mexico; parents say it is hard to keep kids focused on online classes. In addition, most Mexicans who can afford it send their kids to private schools and tuition fees didn't seem worth it for online classes.

Mexico has suffered almost 247,000 test-confirmed deaths, but because so little testing is done, official figures suggest the real toll is closer to 370,000. Mexico has now vaccinated about 59% of adults with at least one dose, but only about half of them are fully vaccinated.

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