Nicaraguan teachers who experience symptoms of COVID-19 don’t have access to testing to see if they really have the disease. When symptoms present, they’re merely sent home on leave, as if it were a common cold.
Meanwhile, classes continue without being suspended, denounced the independent United Nicaraguan Teachers’ Union (Unidad Sindical Magisterial de Nicaragua) on Friday, May 15.
According to the labor group, made up of teachers that don’t feel represented by the Sandinista-allied teachers’ union ANDEN, at least 21 teachers have had symptoms of COVID-19 and been sent home to rest, without knowing if they’re really positive cases.
“We feel insecure. Classes haven’t been suspended, and at any moment one or more teachers could appear in their centers with the virus and we won’t know. The government wants to make it seem like everything is normal, but it’s a crime they’re committing,” said Lesbia Rodriguez, coordinator of the independent teachers’ group.
One recent case that made an impression on the teachers from Managua was that of a teacher who, without being diagnosed with COVID-19, was sent home to be quarantined. The lot where her house stands is shared with the home of a youth with the same symptoms, who two weeks before had sought attention in the hospitals of two cities and died without receiving attention.
“That teacher works in preschool, but only three children were coming to her classroom because no one wants to send their children to school. Now we don’t know if those children are infected, or if they passed the virus to their families, all because of the irresponsibility of the authorities who won’t suspend classes and want to hide what’s happening in Nicaragua,” Rodriguez lamented.
Official data recognizes only 25 people in Nicaragua that have contracted the SARS-coV-2 virus, and eight deaths. Independent data from the private COVID-19 Citizen’s Observatory indicates some 1270 cases and over 200 deaths related to the pandemic.
Another teacher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals declared that even the teachers that support the governing Sandinista party are unhappy “for the way that [Nicaraguan president] Daniel Ortega sends them into the schools, together with the students, without caring that they’re risking their lives, because he and his family are fine, well secluded in their home.”
The situation of some educators is critical, since they don’t always have access to clean water and their salary isn’t enough to allow them to constantly buy hand sanitizer, according to the teacher making the complaint.
The independent Unified Nicaraguan Teachers Union maintains that there’s no reason for Ortega to refuse to suspend classes, since the quantity of students who continue attending is so small that the teachers don’t give their regular classes, merely look for a way to spend the time until it’s the hour to go home.
Ortega’s management of the pandemic in Nicaragua has been criticized, since up until now no restrictions have been established: they refuse to suspend classes, close the borders, establish obligatory quarantines or implement a plan of social prevention. In addition, every week over a thousand public activities are organized around the country.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights have called on the Nicaraguan government to guarantee the right to health. However, to date, no important changes in Covid-19 prevention have been implemented.