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Greek Education Ministry: Use of masks also in kindergarten

Students at all levels of education but also young children as those attending kindergarten will have to wear face masks when the schools in Greece open on September 7. The Ministry of Education has reportedly accepted the suggestions made by the experts of the infectious disease committee.

Minister of Education Niki Kerameos classified the masks as excellent tools “to protect ourselves from the virus” and told Alpha TV on Thursday evening that the ministry accepted also the expert’s the suggestion that students from kindergarten on will wear masks.

She stressed that the proposal of the experts is to give weight to the education for the use of the mask to pupils of young age “from the kindergarten until the 3. grade in elementary school.”

The education of very young children about the use of face mask will be through special videos.

The use of masks in schools by both the students and the teaching staff has been decided due to an increase of coronavirus infections in August.

The Minister’s statement triggered strong reactions especially among parents of very young children, who say that it is impossible for a child of 4-6 years old to wear a mask for several hours per day and effectively protect itself.

Others complain about the cost for the families.

Teachers’ Union OLME expressed concern about the measures the Ministry plans to take when the schools open and drew attention to problems such as the number of children in classrooms, the use of masks, staff shortages and other problems.

Speaking to state-run ERT TV, OLME president, Theodoros Tsouchlos, stressed that the education community “was surprised by the announcements of the government, but also the ministry and the government were surprised by the new wave of the pandemic.”

Tsouchlos stressed that there is a serious question, “whether a class can accommodate 28 children wearing masks.”

OLME proposes the decrease of pupils numbers in a classroom and said that “there are closed rooms that could be used to have classes of 15 pupils.”

However, classes with fewer pupils require also more teaching personnel that the government seems unwilling to finance.

Tsouclos said also that cost of masks should be covered by the government, in order not to burden the parents financially.

Following the reaction of parents and teachers, Minister Kerameos clarified on Friday that “pupils may be allowed to not wear masks during the breaks.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said later that face masks for pupils and teachers in schools will be offered for free from the state.

Minister Niki Kerameos is scheduled to announce the full protection measures in schools, incl. the use of masks, officially, next Monday, August 24.

PS The Ministry of Education had all summer at its disposal to work out a Plan A for a school year with less infections and a Plan B for a school year with more infections. It did not.

The Greek summer can be very seductive…

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