In Bolivia’s highlands, a dozen Aymara students on bicycles, covered from head-to-toe in protective suits, hats and face masks, arrive at their school for the start of the 2021 school year amid an uptick in coronavirus infections in the Andean country.
Bolivia shut down its school year in August because it couldn’t guarantee access to online education to all, especially in impoverished rural areas where many people lack devices and internet access.
Even though the infection rate remains high, the government announced that classes would restart this week with face-to-face, online or blended formats, depending on the conditions in each region.
Parents at the Jancohaqui Tana school on the outskirts of Jesús de Machaca, located west of La Paz, together with Indigenous authorities, decided to send their children back to school for in-person classes and ordered special biosecurity suits.
Most regions of Bolivia opted for virtual classes.
Jesús de Machaca is a remote town of farmers and milk producers.
The school is small with children of all grades being taught by one teacher in the same classroom.
Besides in-person, classes are also being taught in Bolivia on television, radio and a free digital platform.
Others are not so happy with some students returning to face-to-face classes.
The leaders of teachers in the rural area say the conditions are not right for a return to classes.
In Bolivia, the pandemic has mainly affected the most populated cities of Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba.
The Ministry of Health reported that in January there were more than 60 deaths per day and Bolivia reported 2,021 infections on the eve of the school opening, one of the highest figures since the pandemic began in March.
As of the first week of February, the country has reported 222,447 confirmed cases and 10,571 deaths