“It gives me happiness and relaxation”says Teresita while petting Pepe, a dog that comes to the campus where she studies to help relieve students of stress when they return to classes after the coronavirus pandemic, which in Chile has been marked by anxiety and violence.
“Uva”, a seven-year-old labrador; “Pepe”, a golden of the same age, and “Chumi”, a mestiza, they surrender to caresses of those who go to the “Zone free of stress and anxiety”, set up on one of the campuses of the Catholic University (UC).
“I could stay hugging the dog for hours,” adds Teresita Valencia, 23, kneeling next to Pepe.
“Going back to school has been challenging for everyone. We have a new generation that has just begun to reconnect with what it is like to go to university and that brings certain moments of anxiety“, explains Ignacia Pfingsthorn, of the program of anxiety, stress and sleep of the UC.
Besides, there have been cases of violence between high school studentsteachers and even parents, in the midst of the tense climate that Chilean society cannot overcome after the protests of October 2019.
On April 7, a student from a Santa Cruz high school shot himself in the schoolyard after reporting bullying. A week earlier, a teacher was stabbed by the mother of a student after an act of violence on campus.
In the first month of returning to school, cases of physical and psychological abuse among students increased 22% with respect to the level prior to the pandemic, according to the Superintendency of Education.
“There is a quite unbalanced psychological state in the country,” warns Isidora Mena, psychologist and director of the school coexistence program at the Catholic University.
Students of the Catholic University of Chile and the caresses of a Golden. AFP Photo
Grape, Pepe and Chumi they are part of the 10 dogs of the Truce Foundation, who perform similar functions in pediatric hospitals, foundations for children with disabilities, and nursing homes.
“Dogs enjoy this job. They are bred to really like contact with people,” explains Camila Arteaga, director of Tregua.
In these first weeks of school “we detected that there were many problems of coexistence education in the establishments,” the Minister of Education, Marco Antonio Avila, explained to AFP.
Uva, Pepe and Chumi are part of the 10 dogs of Fundación Tregua. AFP Photo
The president of the College of Teachers, Carlos Díaz, considers that the return “It’s been pretty traumatic.” since “it has been difficult to resume the logic of being together, sharing and listening”.
In schools “it was impossible to try to return to a logic of a full school day. That is, from being two years without classes, without school, without sharing, to that from one day to the next we have to be 10 hours a day, also with a mask , in very small spaces,” he adds.
Due to the consequences of the pandemic, the tension inherited after the 2019 protests was added in Chile.
“Dogs enjoy this job. They are bred to really like contact with people,” explains Camila Arteaga. AFP Photo
In Santiago, schoolchildren from a dozen high schools have clashed with the Police, in protests to demand improvements in infrastructure and the provision of teachers.
Low tolerance, frustration, panic attacks and rapid escalation of conflicts is what Pedro Martínez, a 32-year-old mathematics teacher at a school in Santiago, has seen.
“It is a generation that does not know how to resolve conflicts. Socio-emotional illiterate”, describes this teacher, who complains about the little time to mediate and accompany the students through a system focused on academics. The government is preparing an intervention plan in about 60 neighborhoods with acute situations of school violence.
Psychologist Isidora Mena affirms that “there are too many combined factors that generate stress in teachers and students. Factors such as a social crisis in the country that was in the background and that was a crisis that some expressed with great violence.”
“It is a generation that does not know how to resolve conflicts. Socioemotional illiterate,” says a teacher. AFP Photo
Mónica Peña, an academic from the Faculty of Psychology at the Diego Portales University, considers that the social outbreak “pulled the garbage under the rug and now we see situations of injustice more clearly. And children and adolescents are very sensitive to issues of justice Social”.
The two years of pandemic provoked the students great difficulty “in understanding the rules of coexistence and stick to certain forms that are more lax in families,” he adds.