Thursday, June 11, 2020

Portugal is a place of peace



The 2020 Global Peace Index just released reveals that Portugal remains one of the most peaceful countries in the world.

This latest, highly-respected index indicates that conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, only to be replaced with a new wave of tension and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iceland is still the world’s most peaceful country, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined once again at the top of the peace list by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark. Portugal maintains the number three position it had last year.  Canada is rated 6th, the United Kingdom 42nd and the United States 121st.

For the second year in a row, Afghanistan is named as the least peaceful country, followed by Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.
This is the 14th edition of the annual report produced by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace, the world’s leading analyst of peacefulness. This report is the most comprehensive of its kind to date, ranking 163 independent countries and territories.
It covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected international sources. It measures the state of peace across three domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.
The latest report includes an analysis of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on peace.  It examines how the impact of the pandemic  -    in particular its economic consequences  -   will increase the risk of severe deteriorations over the next few years. It also examines which countries are best placed to recover from the pandemic shock.
The 2020 index shows that the level of peacefulness has deteriorated globally by just 0.34 per cent, but this is the ninth deterioration in the last twelve years, with 81 countries improving, and 80 recording deteriorations over the past year.
We now live in a world in which the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, only to be replaced with a new wave of tension and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.
It also looks at the trends in civil unrest over the past decade and finds that there has been a sharp increase in civil unrest events since 2011. More than 96 countries experienced at least one violent demonstration in 2019.
Europe has had the largest number of protests, riots and strikes over the past decade, but sixty-five per cent of the civil unrest events in Europe have been non-violent.
Portugal has made huge strides in peacefulness since its international financial and bailout crisis in 2014 when it was ranked the world’s 18th most peaceful country.
Portigal now seems firmly entrenched in the world’s most peaceful top four. 

The 2020 Global Peace Index document can be consulted at: http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/06/GPI_2020_web.pdf




Monday, May 11, 2020

Hunger instead of holidays


The Algarve Network for Families in Need:  insight into a charity whose efforts have recently become all the more vital 


In the shadows of the sunny Algarve, a place long likened to ‘paradise’ by foreign residents and visitors from abroad, thousands of Portuguese families are living hand to mouth or even in abject poverty. 

They stay remarkably quiet, probably because of feelings of depression, embarrassment or even shame.  There appears to be very little support from local authorities.

Someone who has made the problem central to her life is Bernadette Abbott, an English sociologist. Before moving to the Algarve eight years ago, she had much experience involving justice and human rights, as well as social wok and social car management. Bernadette became a volunteer for Algarve Network for Families in Need.

The prevalence of economic hardship in the Algarve was bad enough in past years but, of course, it has escalated hugely since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis.

One of the main problems for Portuguese families, she says, is that the minimum pay has been low and there has been no correlation between pay and the minimum amount it is possible to live on.

Too many people work without contracts and on minimum pay only during the tourist season. They are without work or incomes in the winter months.  For workers without a contract or, in the case of the self-employed, those who are without work through the winter and therefore have no green receipts, there is no eligibility for social security payments. 
“The Algarve has become far too dependent on summer tourism and little else. Winter is a nightmare for those on minimum pay in seasonal work,” says Bernadette.
“Families run up debts on rents, utilities and other essentials. They have to spend the whole of the summer repaying them. 
“Many who live in my village have been going out to work from six in the morning until midnight in summer. If there are two parents involved, these hours usually apply to both. Children are collected after school and their parents go back to work, leaving the children to do their homework alone.
“One family has told me that it takes until September to pay off their debts. Then they have about a month with some money before the nightmare starts again.”
Other problems include a lack of social housing at a reduced rent. Renting privately is usually expensive, even when it is possible to find a place available. There is no compensation in the form of housing benefits for those who have to rent in the private sector.  
Renting a place out of town may be cheaper, but it precludes many of those wishing to work in places such as hotels and restaurants because there is no public transport to take them home after 8 pm. 
“For a family in crisis there is very little family support,” says Bernadette. “Families have contacted me for food and when I ask if they have been to the local city hall, they will tell me that they have been given an appointment for maybe three months later.”
A very real worry for badly-off parents is asking children’s services for help. They fear that their child or children may be taken into care by an out-of-date and unnecessarily punitive system. 
“All this put together creates a system where people live basically from hand to mouth. They never have any reserves. So, if something breaks, or there is any additional expense, the finance does not exist for it,” says Bernadette.
“Families who are worn down by the daily drudge don’t question the system because they don’t believe anything will ever change.”

The arrival of coronavirus in Portugal coincided with the start of a new tourist season. Seasonal workers who had been out of work for months had been looking forward to getting back to their jobs and getting an income again to pay off their winter debts. Instead, they were shattered when that work disappeared.
 “Many families were left with no money, no food and no hope,” said Bernadette.  
“It was pure devastation. You could actually see people falling into depression.
“One lady told me she had a tin of tuna and 2kgs of potatoes and then nothing. 

“Others said they had to watch their babies in their cots so that if they caused any mess they could take them out because they had no nappies for them.

“Rent and bills just didn’t come into it. They were talking about sheer survival.”

While many are not eligible for social security payments, “these payments are totally inadequate anyway and you will see that this problem will go on for quite some time,” said Bernadette.

The problem has become so great that she and her fellow helpers are no longer able to help all families in need – only those most in need; in other words, those with nothing.

Bernadette’s appeals on Facebook both for volunteers and food donations reaped many positive responses. A generous donation from one man in Germany enabled them to keep going, but the network had to constantly top up. That meant expanding operations. 
 
In addition to the original hub Bernadette set up in Lagos, her network now has similar centres in Ferragudo, Messines, Guia/Boliqueime and Lagoa. 
The hubs are where food is stored, sorted and bagged ready for distribution. Lagos and Guia/Boliqueime are able to take chilled food as they have fridge/freezer facilities. 

Those in charge of each hub closely collaborate with volunteers with trolleys, operating a series of food collection points, mainly near supermarkets. Clothing and household items are now also being collected. Cash donations are most welcome too, but the network prefers cash donations to be made online the same way contributions are made to the bombeiros.  

Desperate families in need can come to the collection points for food if they live nearby, otherwise the food will be delivered to the family home.

The collection volunteers also encourage all the people they meet to watch out for any neighbours in need.


Algarve Network for Families in Need collection points


Alvor
Pingo Doce        every Friday, 12 to 1.30 

Ferragudo
Arade Pavilion           by arrangement

Guia
Retail Park        every Saturday, 1.30 to 2.20

Lagoa
Pingo Doce        fortnightly on Wednesdays, 11 to 12


Lagos
Lidl                     every Saturday, 11 to 12

Luz
Baptista             every Saturday, 12.15 to 1.10

Messines

Intermarché               every Saturday, 12.15 to 1 .15

Paderne
G.P. Surgery
              every Saturday, 11 to 12

Quarteira
Vila Sol Plaza, fortnightly on Saturdays; next May 16

Silves
Continente                  every Saturday, 11 to 12

The Algarve Network for Families in Need is looking for more hubs, more collection points, more volunteers and more contributions of all kinds to help the needy, especially in this current crisis. 

For more information:



Ready for delivery to needy families

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Portugal cautiously lifting lockdowns


It’s looking like a positive turning point for Portugal in the coronavirus trauma. From this Monday, the Portuguese authorities will be closely monitoring the lifting of some emergency lockdowns with a view to extending them if all goes well. 
The government’s cautious plan for an economic recovery is starting with small shops and a selection of other businesses. Only shops with direct access to the street are included. After two weeks, on May 17, cafés and restaurants may also be allowed to reopen.  
Two weeks after that, on June 1, larger shops and those located inside shopping centres will be allowed to open their doors again.
The success of this measured approach will depend on the degree of care and cooperation taken simultaneously by business owners and customers.  Hygiene and social distancing will remain vital. Facemasks and the use of sanitary hand gel will be mandatory among groups in most public places. 
Hairdressing salons and golf courses are among the specialised enterprises opening Monday.  Municipal markets will soon follow.  
The European countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Poland, Hungry, Austria and Switzerland,  that have already started easing emergency regulations have so far not reported any significant problems.  Any resurgence of the disease as a result of lifting lockdowns will, of course, almost certainly create a renewed clampdown that could have even more serious economic consequences.  
Germany, one of the most infected nations in Europe, allowed some shops to reopen last Monday. Hardest hit Italy, the first to introduced lockdowns, will follow with various relaxations starting on the same dates as Portugal.
Belgium also starts easing restrictions on Monday.  France will follow on May 11. Ireland will slowly begin easing this coming Wednesday though pubs are not expected to open again until August. No clear announcement has yet been made in the United Kingdom where present restrictions are likely to remain in place until June. 
The underlying fact is that if unlocking restrictions leads to any resurgence of the number of people infected with coronavirus, the strict rules that will have to be imposed again may have even more profound economic consequences.     
Portugal has been outstanding in its handling of the crisis. The attitude of the government, local councils and the great majority of citizens has kept the spread of the virus and the number of fatalities to modest levels compared to European and world standards. 
Infection levels have been lower in the Algarve than in the north, central and Lisbon areas of Portugal. This, together with the huge numbers of infections and deaths in neighbouring Spain, has encouraged speculation that the Algarve will be one of the most popular tourist destinations once the pandemic subsides.
As welcome as this notion is in a region whose economy relies heavily on tourism, the return of foreign visitors to the Algarve will depend not so much on its image and the reopening of hotels and other holiday facilities here as on the quarantine restrictions still in place abroad and the return to normal operations by airlines, particularly from the UK.  

Nearly all planes remain grounded. The future of airline services is among the many current uncertainties.   


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Recycling reaches record levels


The increase in the amount of materials recycled in Portugal last year peaked at extraordinary heights.

The latest statistics reveal that the overall level increased by 10% compared to the 2018 figures.

TheMayor.EU portal for European cities and citizens has described the increase as   “staggering”. It says that “Portugal is well on its way to achieving its sustainability and recycling targets.”

The statistics are seen within the EU as a clear indication that Portuguese citizens are taking sustainability and the circular economy to heart.

A breakdown of the 2019 figures shows recycling increases of 5% in plastics, 9% in glass, 14% in paper and cardboard, 7% and 14% in steel and aluminium respectively, and 34% in wood.

This latest data was gathered by the Sociedade Ponto Verde, founded in 1996 as a private, non-profit Portuguese organisation that   manages and promotes the selection, collection and  recycling of various materials in this country.

Because of COVID-19, however, the   extremely positive trend in 2019 cannot be expected to continue this year.

 Sociedade Ponto Verde  says the pandemic is having a negative impact on recycling as the Portuguese government’s focus has shifted from sustainability goals to protecting the health of citizens with emergency regulations.

Social lifestyle limitations together with the loss of employment in certain sectors are inhibiting the separate collection of waste and its recycling, even though this is expected to remain a priority for the relevant authorities. 

Residual waste services to households were being disrupted  in 17% of Portuguese local council areas, according to the results of a survey  published on 3 April, 11 days into the government’s original three week ‘stay at home’ period. Garden, food and bulky waste were being hit hardest.

Another worrying factor is the slump in the price of oil. As crude oil is a basic component in the production of most plastic material, the price of ‘virgin’ plastic is falling substantially. This means the price of recycled plastic is coming under increasing pressure and if something is not done, many recyclers may be in trouble financially, say analysts.

“The challenges presented by global warming and the lack of a global response are always in the rear-view mirror,” say representatives of Sociedade Ponto Verde.

Their simple message to citizens is do not forget good recycling habits no matter how life has changed and how it will change further in the not too distant future.

It is only through positive and responsible policies and attitudes that improvements can truly be achieved.

According to European Community legislation, all packaging entities are responsible for the management and final destination of their packaging. They can and do delegate these responsibilities to licensed specialists such as Sociedade Ponto Verde.


The Green Dot symbol used by the Sociedade  indicates that the packaging company has delegated at its own expense the responsibility of management and recycling of packaging.  The symbol is used by a whole  European network of organizations.

Meanwhile, in line with the EU Plastics Strategy, a pilot project was launched in Portugal last July to test  container deposit scheme for beverages.  As a result, the start of  2022 will likely see  a mandatory  scheme formally introduced for the return of non-reusable plastic bottles and cans. It is hoped this will be a breakthrough,   bringing plastic recycling in Portugal back to new record levels.  







Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Lagoa link in crisis food chain



It is vital that the food supply chain in Europe continues to operate as efficiently as possible, and a Lagoa-based farming company is an example of how this can be done with a minimum of disruption despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The food chain in Europe is still struggling, but the company Schroll Flavours is going from strength to strength on its farms on either side of Lagoa growing, harvesting and exporting crops without too many coronavirus-related problems. 

Founded by the resident Danish entrepreneur Brian Knudsen, Schroll Flavours has specialised since 2016 in growing herbs and exporting most of its year-round crop to northern Europe.

The devastation of COVID-19 and the continued imposition of strict emergency regulations in Portugal and other countries has not impacted negatively on the company’s overall output, says Knudsen.

The company lost 90% of its normal wholesale and food service customers, but has been able to replace them with supermarket and online suppliers. 

“We can’t complain at the moment. We know of colleagues are in a much worse situation,” says Knudsen.

The food supply chain experienced setbacks from the start of the pandemic in Europe, which sparked panic buying that emptied supermarket shelves. Shortages didn’t last too long, but the state of emergency rules about social distancing meant reducing the flow of shoppers. 

The closure of restaurants, cafes and schools immediately impacted on their suppliers and added to the number of employees suddenly out of work.   

Farmers specialising in tomatoes and other salad crops in the central Portuguese province of  Ribatejo have been unable to get normal production underway because of a shortage of nursery plants. 

Other producers in Europe are currently incensed that large quantities of fruit and vegetables are being flown in from non-European countries, such as South Africa, Kenya and Venezuela, while farmers in Europe are struggling to sell their own fresh produce.  

The same lockdowns and travel restrictions are hindering relief efforts to prevent vulnerable developing countries, particularly in Africa, from sliding into famine on account of the pandemic.

Of major concern in the United States is that meat packaging plants have been shutting down because the close proximity of employees has caused a high number of coronavirus infections. 

Meanwhile, Schroll Flavours’ farm workers in Lagoa have been adhering to the social distancing rules and the farms are closed to all except those essentially delivering or loading goods.

With ideal soil and climatic conditions, including plenty of sunshine backed by adequate irrigation,  Schroll Flavours is able to produce all kinds of herbs all year round. 


Employees from Portugal, Denmark and India are kept particularly busy picking from March all the way through to January. The harvests are loaded onto trucks in Lagoa and sent across borders without unnecessary restriction to Scandinavian countries, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The biggest herbal demands abroad are for coriander, basil and Moroccan mint, followed by thyme and chives, with lesser amounts of rosemary and lemongrass. 

There is no complacency in any of this. Better days lie ahead. It’s been a firm objective of Brian Knudsen for quite a while and it’s about to be fulfilled. From the end of next month, May, his entire annual crop of herbs will be grown organically. 

 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

COVID-19: Faith, facts and fears


During Easter, people of faith will be among those supporting the COVID-19 emergency measures imposed by politicians on the advice of scientists.

All places of worship in Portugal will remain closed at least until April 17 – and longer should the present state of emergency be extended. 

Catholics, by far the largest religious denomination in this country, are having to make do with services on television instead of attending Mass in their local churches. Pope Francis has said that the pandemic represents a chance for creativity and positive change and urged people to reconnect with the real world and reject what he called “throwaway culture.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses, well-known among all other religious and non-religious sections of the community for their door-to-door preaching visits, have suspended all such activity and are adhering to self-isolation and social distancing. They quote the Bible in saying that response to the pandemic should be measured and based on fact not fear. 

Passover, which is being celebrated between April 8 and 16, will not be quite the same joyous occasion for Orthodox Jews this year because of the inability of extended families and friends to gather together. 
  
Portuguese police are on duty to stop the small minority of city dwellers, religious and non-religious, who are hoping to drive south and spend the weekend in the Algarve. Fortunately the weather for the weekend in the Algarve is forecast to be not nearly so sunny and inviting as during most of last month.

In an especially stringent regulation, citizens have been banned from moving out of the municipal area in which they reside unless they have precise and important reasons for doing so.

All this is in contrast to the attitude of some preachers in the former Portuguese territory of Brazil who insist COVID-19 is divine punishment – the work of Satan – and that the virus is powerless against those who are not afraid of it.

Similarly, some evangelical pastors in the United States are urging congregations to mingle over Easter and ignore any lockdown rules.

American far-right evangelicals, who make up a substantial section of President Donald Trump’s supporters, are heavily into the blame game. They want China to be held accountable for allowing the virus to spread.  

They believe the fundamental cause of this pandemic has been incompetence, corruption and malice on the part of the non-religious Chinese scientific and political establishment. 

A reliable analysis of who has been responsible for the spread of the pandemic is probably still some time away, but it seems probably that Portugal, unlike the UK and the US, will be regarded as one of the countries that  took sufficient decisive action at the right time. 

Meanwhile, the notion that COVID-19 is not what scientists and medical experts are making it out to be is rife on social media. Disinformation is adding to the fears among those who are accessing the Internet in far greater numbers than ever before. 

Crazy conspiracy theories amounting to blatant false news are being circulated to the detriment especially of vulnerable people in self-isolation. This is being done despite the monitoring efforts of Facebook and other social networking platforms.   

Certain elements within the mainstream media are far from innocent in adding confusion among viewers and readers. Some TV reporters have been blathering on and on and on about data revealing not only the number of COVID-19 deaths in various countries, but lots of other bewildering numbers and percentages. Least reported are statistics on those who have contracted coronavirus but survived it without hospitalisation or any significant problems.

The economics of this pandemic are something else, of course. The longer COVID-19 lasts, the greater the ordeal of mass unemployment and collapsing companies. 

Greater clarity on the many coronavirus uncertainties that still exist today in Portugal will have to wait until after Easter.        

Saturday, April 4, 2020

COVID-19: Easter lockdown essential



The coronavirus tide may be turning in Portugal. 

“This month is decisive for us to be able to control the pandemic,” said Prime Minister António Costa as the state of emergency regulations aimed at limiting the spread of the virus was extended for 15 days to April 17.

During Easter – Thursday 9 to Monday 13 – it is forbidden, except in exceptional circumstances, for people to leave the municipality in which they reside. The exceptions include those necessarily travelling to a hospital, a work place, or a home to provide special care. 

The extended emergency decree from President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and backed by parliament came as the number of deaths from the disease in Portugal approached 200.  However, the number of infections and percentage of death is much less than in other European countries, particularly neighbouring Spain.

The effort by the Portuguese to self-discipline is very important and should be reinforced, said the Prime Minister. He was cautious in his predictions, saying that lifting the state of emergency could not be done in a hurry. Further restrictions on the movement of people might even continue for “one, two, three months,” he said. 

The current emergency extension to April 17 is likely to be fully accepted by the Portuguese population at large, though some Lisbon and other northern city dwellers have been criticised for irresponsibly driving south to spend Easter in the Algarve. 

The north, centre and Lisbon areas so far have been much worse affected by the pandemic than the Algarve or Alentejo regions, but most people throughout the country are adhering to appropriate self-isolation and social distancing. 

Most business, cultural and entertainment venues remain closed.  Outlets such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks are continuing to serve a strictly controlled flow of customers.

Portugal’s internal emergency regulations, border controls with Spain and the grounding of international airlines have brought about a total absence of tourism, the Algarve’s main economic activity.

EasyJet, for example, have announced that they will not be operating any normal scheduled services this month, only repatriation flights. 

Easter is traditionally the start of the annual holiday boom, but hotels and all other holiday accommodation will have to remain closed until the pandemic crisis has been resolved, which may, or may not, be possible before the end of the summer season. 

Crucially, many small and medium-sized companies and their staff rely on revenue from the summer months to see them through the whole of the year.

Those in all sectors of the Algarve tourist trade are hoping that because of Portugal’s efficient handling of the crisis and the relatively low number of coronavirus infections in the region, it will be a top destination and see a surge of visitors from the UK, Germany and elsewhere in northern Europe when COVID-19 is over. 
     







Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Academia adrift, but students battle on



Students living in the Algarve forced to abandon studies at universities in the United Kingdom because of the coronavirus emergency are working hard to achieve their degrees on time with the help of modern technology.

There was a sudden rush to get back home when all universities, colleges and schools in the UK closed and airlines began cancelling flights.

Mariota and Catriona Anderson returned on an almost empty plane and spent their first two weeks self-isolated in part of their Lagoa family home, separated from their parents.

They are focused in an unprecedented way on completing masters degrees started last September.

Mariota is working on an MSc in International public policy with University College London (UCL). Her twin sister, Catriona, has been attending the London School of Economics (LSE) for an MSc in International social and public policy.

They received emails from their universities announcing closure for the rest of the academic year and that teaching would have to move online.

“The whole process of moving classes and digital teaching has been very surreal,” they say.

Everyone is able to communicate as if it was a virtual seminar - provided there are no Wi-Fi problems.

“What has been lost is the experience of physically attending university and everything that comes with that, such as attending seminars and public lectures,” they say.

“Not being in an actual seminar or lecture where you can talk, without internet cutting out and other technical difficulties, has been challenging."

With students now spread across the world, time differences and internet connections have been difficult to manage.

Catriona has been attending LSE seminars through an online platform called Zoom, which is like Skype.

“It allows students to communicate as if it was a virtual seminar. It is obviously very different from being in a lecture in person, which is a lot more motivating and social,” she says.

At UCL, seminars have taken the form of an online forum where students send in questions and the seminar leader answers them.  

“I only had two weeks left of teaching as UCL was on strike for four weeks since the 20th of February. Teaching was supposed to resume the week after they announced that the university was going to close. So I’ve really not been taught for my second semester, which is really disappointing,” says Mariota.

Trying to concentrate on studying and writing essays amidst the constant wave of anxiety- inducing news updates about the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly challenging, say the Anderson sisters.

The good news is that Mariota and Catriona have been assured that their exams will be moved online so it will be possible to obtain masters degrees from home.

Dissertations will be complicated to complete at home as students won’t have access to libraries and archives, which have also closed.

Exams have been moved online too, but the twins have each been assured that despite all this moving online for an indefinite period, they can still look forward to obtaining their masters degrees from home.

Back in the Algarve while in the third year of a four-year integrated masters course in Engineering Science at Oxford University, Martha Fitzpatrick is also struggling to study at home.

“While it is lovely being back with my family, the environment is not as conducive to study in,” she says.

“At university I always work in libraries or public spaces, working alongside other students, which is what keeps me focused. Working from home I feel very unmotivated and prone to procrastination.”

Martha says she is finding it hard to find a way to revise as she has not yet been told how she will be assessed as the conventional written papers are unlikely to happen this year.

“On speaking to friends from university it is clear most people are all struggling with this.”

Along with the rest of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, it is not known when Oxford University will reopen.

“They have indicated that it is likely we will only return for the start of the next new academic year, which will be October 2020. However, they have not officially announced that students will not be able to return for next term. They have only said it is most likely all teaching will be done remotely if we choose to return.”

Martha and her fellow students have been told that they can obtain their degrees without returning to Oxford. They will only have to return at some stage in the future to attend a graduation ceremony and officially leave the university.





Sunday, March 29, 2020

A whole new way of schooling



Faced with unprecedented circumstances, schools, students and parents are now having to assume and cope with a completely new way of schooling. 

Students are self-isolating at home with their families, and whilst education must continue, it is also very important to ensure both social contact and interaction with friends and peers.

This is the firm view of Ms Penelope Best, Head of School at the Eupheus International School in the Algarve.

“Our students are in a fortunate position as they utilise the latest technology in direct response to these unprecedented times. We are now providing a comprehensive blended model of virtual learning for all of our students,” says Ms Best. 

The virtual school day begins as scheduled at 9.15 am. All of the students use their Eupheus iPads to connect to their virtual classroom and teacher through the Zoom app. Teachers monitor, interact with their whole class and teach their morning lessons online. Music, art and PE lessons are uploaded during the afternoon.

Teachers use interactive aids, such as teaching videos, YouTube clips or appropriate worksheets to support these lessons.

“We also use Class Dojo, which is the learning platform through which our teachers, students and parents are able to access all set work and communicate directly with each other,” says Ms Best.
“They are able to upload photographs, videos and schoolwork, as well as share thoughts, ideas and motivational posts.”  

Ms Best is able to publish daily school news, congratulate students on their achievements, celebrate birthdays and keep her school community spirit alive and connected.

To date, this has been very well received by students. They are continuing their studies very successfully, having adapted to a truly 21st century way of teaching and learning. 

It is difficult to compare how other international and national schools in Portugal are coping with the current crisis. 
As a brand new school located in Loulé, equipped with the latest technology, and students who have individual iPads and internet at home, Eupheus International is able to continue providing education at a high level, with students receiving daily interaction with their teachers and friends.

“They appear to be coping very well, and have accepted and adjusted to the new situation better than anyone could have expected,” says Ms Best.

“Our teachers have been outstanding. We are a small team, which is both nurtured and supported.  My teachers have been able to adapt very quickly to the new challenges. They are providing not only academic support, but crucially the emotional support that our students and families require at this demanding time.”   

Teachers at other schools have told the Eupheus head that they feel completely overwhelmed. Some students in Portuguese national schools are being given so much work that they have been sent timetables to include Saturdays and Sundays. They are still expected to carry out tests that are posted online, when some do not have access to computers or the internet. 

This is not the fault of educational establishments per se, explains Ms Best. Rather it is indicative of the differing levels of funding within the education systems.

“I see this situation as one of the biggest learning curves in educational history, and an opportunity to make unparalleled developments in modern education. This pandemic will change education and its core values forever.”