In this article we interview Elisa, a young school student in Italy, about the EUCare project.
Tell us a bit about you, and why you thought of joining the conference
My name is Elisa Moscatelli, I am 18 and I took part in an Erasmus+ internship project in Obessu as a translation assistant. I will be staying in Brussels for a month to learn about the organization and its main goals. I decided to attend the EUcare event online since I fully support their initiative and I am extremely interested in their project. EUcare was interesting as it questioned the approach of the closure of schools, thinking that there would be other ways to face the pandemic without hindering students' right to education because remote learning has not always led to positive outcomes.
You were in school when Covid-19 hit Europe. What was your experience?
Unfortunately, I can speak on behalf of all Italian students when I affirm that our experience was one of the worst of all Europe. Our school system was not prepared at all to face the issues brought by the pandemic. Remote learning slowed down our learning skills, students became less engaged and strongly demotivated. As stated by the EUcare survey on the psychological effects of the pandemic, there has been an increase in emotions such as anger and sadness and the rise of pathologies such as anxiety among Italian students. Not only was the feeling of isolation that destroyed students' psyche, it was also a matter of lack of support from teachers, who sometimes refused to attend online classes or had little patience while communicating.
My classmates and I obviously understood that teachers are humans too and everyone was stressed by the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, however, what we needed at that moment was a reference figure in that absurd situation and no one gave us the feeling of safety that we needed. Re-acclimatize to school in presence was also extremely hard work, us students were not able to study as we used to do before school’s closure, even trying to learn one single paragraph seemed gruelling.
What about EUCare, can you tell us a bit about the project?
EUcare’s project aims to face the COVID-19 pandemic with the support of strong immuno-virological and artificial intelligence components, the project will take advantage of large hospital patients, vaccinated healthcare workers, and schools’ cohorts in Europe, Kenya, Mexico, Brazil and Vietnam to find an answer to urgent issues related to science and society. Through its project it wants to limit the spread of the contagion without necessarily closing schools, a fundamental center for learning and communication between children and teenagers.
EUcare started testing the Lolli Method to determine if regular screening with pooled saliva tests (Lolli-Methode) is useful to support school opening and to reduce clusters and attack rates in schools.
You mention the Lolli method, what is it? Why is it important?
The “lolly test” is a child-friendly and simple method for testing for coronavirus using a highly sensitive PCR test. The ease of collecting samples and the ability to test all children in a class (or part of a class) enables the widespread and time-saving use of this test method in schools. Salivary swabs of the entire class are analyzed in a single PCR, twice a week for three months. If the class sample is positive the following day, all components of the class will do a single salivary swab. As a result, positive and negative subjects will follow the legal provisions in force.
The use of this method can help to detect the risk of infection in schools at an early stage and stop chains of infection. In 2021 it was adopted by all schools and kindergartens in North Westphalia (3700 schools) and later in the Region of Tabasco, Mexico (400 schools).
Did you learn anything interesting from the project and the schools involved in the project?
One interesting thing I learned during the conference is that the stereotype of schools being the main center of contagion is fake. A survey conducted in Germany and Italy stated that the rise of the contagion happened weeks after the reopening of schools, so that the two things are not connected. Moreover, it was believed that students were the major carriers of the virus, actually the survey also stated that COVID-19 spread faster among teachers and scholastic personale. People should stop blaming teenagers for being irresponsible or not being able to keep their distance because, as demonstrated by the surveys, the contagion is not mainly their fault.
What were your main takeaways from this experience?
My main takeaway from this event is that schools are fundamental for young people’s educational and personal growth and they should not be shut down, indeed they should be promoted and helped with higher funds. Institutions still do not give the right importance to education and instead of focusing on how to prepare schools for epidemic emergencies, they prefer setting them aside. As we have seen, solutions do exist and governments should focus on how to find them.
Written by Elisa Moscatelli
If you are interested in finding out how school students lived the pandemic and its aftermaths you can continue following the EUcare project and read more about OBESSU’s position and research here.