As second year Junior High School and Senior High School students prepare to resume school on October 5, 2020, parents, guardians, teachers and school administrators who are old enough to understand the risks of going back to school are ill at ease about the safety of school children as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. For children, it is a mixture of apprehension and excitement.
The primary risk of asking children to return to school is the likely increase in the cases because children to a large extent do not have the sense of urgency to follow safety protocols. The risk of spreading the virus in schools is largely dependent on the region’s infection rate and other factors. Fortunately, the risk of infected children potentially becoming very ill is a rare occurrence.
It cannot be emphasised enough that the only way to reduce apprehension surrounding the reopening of schools is to teach school children how to strictly follow the safety protocols because when they are adhered to, they help to drastically reduce the transmission of the novel virus.
School administration can help children take the necessary precautions to mitigate the spread by ensuring the following:
- Promote healthy hygiene behaviours by providing adequate supplies like hand sanitisers, foot-pedal handwashing stations, disinfectant wipes, nose masks, tissues, trash cans etc.
- Put signs that demonstrate everyday protective measures at highly visible locations. The signs should include visual cues that are reader-friendly and generally comprehensible.
- Maintain healthy surroundings by cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs, chairs, tables and teaching-learning materials.
- Make certain that school drivers follow safety protocols by embarking on routine cleaning and disinfecting the school buses.
- Minimise the sharing of objects by keeping each child’s art supplies, toys, books, devices and learning aids separated from others in individually labeled containers.
- Put in place a proper ventilation system to increase the flow of clean air in order to dilute contaminants.
- Encourage children not to share food or utensils and their lunch should be pre-packaged.
- Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, particularly in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.
Efforts to lessen the rate of spread among children at school would be in vain if safety protocols are not followed at home. Parents should endeavour to educate their wards on hygienic practices and how to practice them correctly. Parents can also do the following:
- Pack disinfectant wipes, hand sanitisers, masks and other necessary supplies for their wards to use in school.
- Make the conscious effort to create an environment at home where your ward is freely able to express him or herself as this would enable the child to be able to tell their parents whether they feel safe at school or not.
- Take advantage of any programs at your ward’s school that allow parents to give input.
The pandemic may still be raging but life must go on and human beings need to adjust by following effective practices to mitigate its spread till we can find a solution to eliminate it. Returning to school is important for the education and wellbeing of children. A lot of time spent out of school can negatively affect the child’s cognitive and academic development, especially, children who live in disadvantaged areas, thus, we need to ensure all pupils can return to school sooner rather than later.