Picture: National government

Testing for corona: minority students do it

There is no storm at the counter for free self-tests in higher education. Interest is also disappointing at special rapid test locations: the test street in Groningen is therefore closed.

A campaign has been launched with the slogan 'Self tested = not stressed'. It must persuade employees and students of universities and colleges to take a self-test before they go to campus.

Since May 5th they can order these self-tests for free on www.zelftestonderwijs.nl. The tests are intended to make education safer. Especially if you don't have health problems, you should use one. Anyone who does have complaints should go to the GGD in any case.

In principle, about 789 thousand students and 106 thousand employees can order self-tests (without, for example, the Hogeschool Inholland, which distributes the tests itself). Until Monday 31 May, students have placed 213 thousand orders. For employees, the counter stands at 53 thousand.

stick

You can therefore estimate that roughly half of the employees and a third of the students (if you take into account internships and part-time studies) have requested the tests. And then they still have to use it: stick in your nose, twist, drip, wait…

Anyone who has ordered two or three times counts two or three times in these figures, but that is probably not that many people: with every order you will be sent four tests (and since 1 June even eight tests), and that is how often you had to order. students and staff not yet come to campus.

The willingness of students to test is therefore not overwhelming, as the very first outcome of a pilot showed. At Avans Hogeschool, HAS and MBO institution Koning Willem I, only 30 percent of the students approached eventually took part. This is roughly in line with the number of students who have already ordered self-tests.

Not required

One of the reasons: testing is not mandatory. Testing or not testing has no noticeable consequences, and the vast majority of self-tests are negative. Then students apparently lose motivation.

Whether or not to test has no noticeable consequences

That is how it went in Groningen. Only a quarter of the students showed up in the rapid test street. 'They mentioned the distance to the test location as a reason not to do it,' RTV Noord writes. 'They were also concerned about the consequences of a positive test. Students understood that they were not allowed to enter the exam hall, but they wondered when and how they could make up for the exam.' So the test line ends there.

At the Free University, the experiment will continue until mid-August, but the experiment seems to have been "overtaken by time" with all self-tests and vaccinations, the university said. “We see that test readiness falls short of our expectations because there is no direct benefit for students from testing.” Education remains at one and a half meters, with all the associated restrictions.

'We see that test readiness falls short of our expectations, because there is no direct benefit for students from testing'

No protest

The cabinet had earmarked almost half a billion euros for self-tests in higher education, including distribution. In education, not a single administrator or interest group protested, because the money was not for the account of the education budget. But there was also no one who fully defended the policy. The enthusiasm for self-tests in higher education came from the cabinet, not from education administrators or student clubs. They wanted to open anyway, with or without those tests.

The distribution of the self-tests turns out to be 63,5 million euros cheaper than estimated, the government's spring memorandum stated last week. But even then it costs more than 400 million euros, while most students and also many employees apparently don't feel like testing themselves. Reports on campus or polls by university magazines also invariably show that a minority is cooperating.

At Radboud University Nijmegen, journalists from university magazine VOX on the newly reopened campus whether the students and staff present had used a free self-test. No one had done that. One of the students was glad the tests were not compulsory, he laughed, 'because I don't feel like sticking a cotton swab in my nose every time I have to go in'.

'I don't feel like sticking a cotton swab in my nose every time I have to go in'

safer

By distributing the self-tests, the cabinet wanted to ensure that it would be safer on campus. Every preventable infection is one, of course. But if roughly three quarters of the lecture hall has not tested itself, it does not seem a particularly successful policy.

In total, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science started eight pilots to see how higher education could be made safer, but the alarming first result was ignored: the cabinet had already decided to distribute the self-tests.

All the results of the pilots will not be presented until 1 July, OCW reports. They are now in danger of becoming obsolete because the vaccination campaign has picked up steam. If all goes well, a reasonably normal academic year will start again in September – with far fewer restrictions.

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