Students may be more exposed to the spread of COVID-19 depending on the means of transportation used to get to their schools.
In Colombia, 12% of fifth grade students and 15% of ninth grade students reported using public transportation.
The percentage of students who get to school by bus or public transportation is higher in cities and intermediate cities than in rural areas.
In the public sector, approximately 2 out of every 3 students walk or ride their bicycle to school; while in the private sector, getting to school by school bus or private vehicle predominates (44%).
Bogotá, July 8, 2020 According to the National Government, the partial reopening of schools and resuming face-to-face classes is scheduled for the first few weeks of August, subject to strict health measures and the pandemic situation in each region. This new normal gives rise to several questions about how students will have to face situations such as getting to and from school, considering that, depending on the means of transportation used, children and adolescents could be more exposed to infection.
In this context, the Economics of Education Laboratory (LEE) analyzed the information reported by the ICFES in 2017 on the Saber 3, 5 and 9 tests, on how students in grades five (between 10 and 12 years old) and nine (between 14 and 16 years old) get to school.
The analysis shows that most students, both fifth and ninth graders, reported walking or riding their bicycle to school, 62% (420,753 students) and 59% (311,617 students), respectively.
The report also states that there are differences according to the sector of the educational establishment, since private schools use more school buses or private transportation.
Additionally, the third most common means of transportation is public transportation (between 12% and 15%). Use is more prominent in municipalities classified as cities or agglomerations (approximately 13% of fifth graders (49,390 students) and 17% of ninth graders (53,967 students) get to school by bus or public transportation).
Although the percentage of students who get to school by bus or public transportation does not exceed 17%, it is still a concern in times of a pandemic. The use of public transportation involves proximity and, in some cases, crowding in a limited environment, which can imply significant exposure for children or adolescents, as well as for their classmates and families when they share other spaces.
The coordination of transportation policies that the government will propose will be fundamental when it comes to reopening schools, especially in the major cities that reported the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections in Colombia (Bogotá, Barranquilla, Cartagena, Cali, Soledad, Medellín, among others) in early July.
The analysis only considers one of the actors within the educational system (students); but, it is also important to think about how teachers, administrators and other staff working in the establishments will commute.
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