The letter points out that the pandemic has now been going on for nearly two years and lecturers and students alike ‘miss face-to-face contact’. The authors state that it is vital for students’ social development that they can meet their fellow students and lecturers in person.
Mental health issues
Due to the lockdown, many students are experiencing all sorts of mental health issues, such as loneliness, depression and sleep deficit, the authors stated, referring to a recent study (which has come in for some criticism). “The combination of all these factors calls for a sustainable solution, despite the ever-increasing infection rates.”
Statistics Netherlands: Lockdowns were hard on young people
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The newly sworn-in Minister for Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, has already announced that reopening the education sector is ‘high on [his] list of priorities’. He believes that the education sector must prepare to live with the virus, as the pandemic seems unlikely to end any time soon.
It is not yet certain how education institutions will be reopened, but this week, the OMT has argued in favour of more extensive use of face masks, at schools and universities as elsewhere. If it were up to the OMT, students would wear face masks not just in the corridors, but in lecture rooms and theatres, as well.
OMT: ‘Wear face mask at bigger lectures’
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The letter to the OMT was signed by university student organisations ISO and LSVb, VET college student organisation JOB and the Dutch National Youth Council, as well as the Netherlands Association of VET Colleges, the Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands. The Dutch Association of Psychiatrists and paediatric psychiatrist Arne Popma also signed the letter.
While the call to reopen schools and universities is widely supported, some students are concerned about the record-breaking infection rates. For instance, Groningen University students have called for exams to be administered online again.