It’s 9:30 in the morning and Toñi, a primary school teacher, asks her students a question. “How are you?”. Far from formalism, the phrase is full of intention. Thirty days ago, more than 4,500 children from the municipalities of Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Tazacorte visited the classrooms for the last time. Since then, the volcano has engulfed their lives. “I wanted to go back, we are seven people in a basement and can not even breathe,” says one of the 11-year-old students. Many have seen how the lava engulfed their homes, others continue with anguish the advance of the lava. In the classroom everyone wears a mask, some have come with caps and one of the children has on his or her forehead plastic goggles fastened with an elastic band. Through the window you can see the ash that falls from the sky keeps accumulating. They have just been informed that the windows must remain closed and that they will not be able to leave for recess until 14.00 inside the building.
The reopening on Monday of some twenty educational centers in the area of the La Palma valley has come accompanied by a new volcanic protocol that collides with the anticovid measures. The so-called School Action Plan on Emissions from Volcanic Activity states that “schools must be prepared to deal with exposures related to volcanic emissions without forgetting the health crisis situation” generated by the pandemic. The plan itself recognizes that these new measures “may contradict” those contained in the anti-covid protocol. Where does the clash occur? While one recommends opening windows and ventilating frequently, the new one states that the days when the air quality is not good will have to be kept closed and outdoor activities will be suspended.
Maiki, a teacher at a public school in Tazacorte, expressed on Facebook this Sunday her doubts about the reopening of the centers. “It seems that tomorrow classes resume in the volcanic crisis zone… and I still don’t understand anything”. Meanwhile, other teachers argue that back-to-school is a priority because children need to continue their academic life and receive support from their teachers. Nieves Rodriguez, director of one of the public schools in Puerto Naos, admits that during the last month the children have not been able to continue with their learning from home. “Only 20% of our students had internet or computer… many have lost their homes and have experienced dramatic situations”. She herself lost her home in Todoque, in the municipality of El Paso. “We have to move forward, I myself have experienced misfortune and I have lost part of my life, but I have a responsibility”.