Students oppose self-paying tests as condition to attend lectures

Ljubljana/Cerknica – The country is introducing the rule of being tested for or vaccinated against Covid or having recovered from it for a number of activities, while abolishing free rapid tests. While these will be paid for by employers for the workers who need them to do their job, university and secondary school students will have to pay for them themselves.

Student representatives strongly oppose having to pay for rapid testing themselves, which will be no longer free of charge from 23 August, except for some groups.

They will cost EUR 12, and are expected to have to be taken every two days, since a rapid antigen test result is valid for 48 hours.

At present, workers in healthcare, care homes and schools who have not been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid have to be tested once a week.

The government is expected to make it into a rule that all education workers must meet the recovered-vaccinated-tested (PCT) rule as of 16 August, when exam resits begin.

Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar said everything was ready to launched voluntary self-testing at home as the new school year starts on 1 September.

Compulsory vaccination for education workers is not being considered, while self-testing for kids in the last three years of primary school is to be introduced.

If the epidemiological situation remains as it is now, self-testing will also be introduced for secondary schools students, the state secretary said.

However, he said the option of a PCT rule for secondary schools was also being considered.

He also announced compliance for university students would be checked with digital technologies. He favours a QR code scanner to be installed at entries to faculties.

The state secretary said a meeting between representatives of students, faculties, health and education ministries would be held this month to discuss details.

He also welcomed the fact that students have accepted the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule as a way of keeping universities open.

However, while university and secondary schools student representatives understand the need for the rule, they oppose payable testing and urge self-testing for secondary school students and teachers, while complaining about the lack of information.

Organisations representing secondary schools students fear that poorer students will not be able to afford rapid tests.

Frančiška Al-Mansour, head of the Association of Secondary Schools, would prefer keeping once-a-week self-testing from the end of the last school year for students.

The Student of Organisation of Slovenia (ŠOS) is meanwhile surprised at the Health Ministry’s statement that student organisations support the new conditions.

ŠOS head Andrej Pirjevec said “free testing is the only way for public education to be truly accessible in the coming school year, so we will do everything for tests to remain free of charge”.

Pirjevec urged teachers and students at all levels of education to get vaccinated, with Vindišar calling on teachers to do so to serve as a role model to others.

Among those proposing for the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule to be introduced at higher education institutions was the Chancellors’ Conference.

“If we want to return to in-person study process, PCT is an urgently needed basis to ensure everyone’s safety and health,” said Zdravko Kačič, the head of the Chancellors’ Conference.

He also said that universities were not in a position to cover the costs of self-tests.

The Youth Council also welcomed the PCT system as a solution to allow all schoolchildren and students to return to schools and colleges in the autumn, but they believe secondary and university students should be eligible for free tests.

The state secretary said the idea behind new rules was to keep schools open even in the worst-case epidemic scenario.

He also told the press as he visited Cerknica that epidemiologists are still able to follow contacts of the infected persons.

But with the reproduction number increasing at the current rate, they could easily no longer be able to do so in 15 days.