– Dr. Minu Madlani, Principal, KPB Hinduja College
The widespread closure of educational institutions due to Covid-19 presented unprecedented risks to the education of students across the country. As per UNESCO, more than 154 crore students across the world were impacted due to this nationwide closure. With Unlock 5.0, after six months, students are geared up to return back to school and resume with the traditional classroom learning. This move, though in the positive direction, requires some serious planning and preparedness from educational institutions to ensure students are in a safe learning environment. A few precautionary measures that will help keep the virus at bay are –
Health Screening: The first and the most important step to resume schools, colleges and universities where large numbers of students will gather is to have a robust health screening process. Parents also need to follow certain guidelines like temperature-check before they allow students to go outside the house. At the institutions premises, there needs to be thorough sanitization facility available for students. Temperature check for all students, teachers and staff before entering the premise should also be made mandatory.
Quarantine Readiness: All educational institutions must be prepared with a quarantine/isolation facility in case of a student showing symptoms of the virus or complaining about any discomfort regarding his/her health. Staff should be well-trained to handle situations like these and must have the necessary precautionary kits like the protective gears and masks at their immediate disposal to be able to take care of the students’ concerns.
Flexible Attendance Policy: In an extraordinary situation like the pandemic has presented in front of us, having a cap on the minimum attendance requirement will not be an advisable option. Given the health risks that the virus possesses, allowing voluntary attendance based on the health of the student will be effective in the first wave of reopening. Staff can be divided into shifts and kept at operating capacity so that manpower is managed to accommodate the number of employees who would have to stay home for medical reasons.
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Social Distancing: Educational institutions needs to pre plan the start and end times of the classes for each grade to ensure there are not many students in the corridor at one given point of time. Avoid multiple entrances and exits and have designated routes for each classroom. Not allowing outsiders, family or visitors inside the campus unless in emergency will also help avoid groups to congregate within the premises. Mealtimes also need to be divided amongst students from different grade to ensure there is no crowding in the cafeteria.
Hygiene & Cleanliness: Apart from following the guidelines provided by the WHO on maintaining hygiene, educational institutions should take extra precautions to ensure students follow these rigorously within and outside the campus. Providing a safety kit that includes sanitizer, masks and gloves should be the first step of ensuring students follow the safety protocols. Surfaces and items like the stationery should be regularly disinfected to ensure safety of students and other members inside the premises.
Following these safety protocols with discipline is extremely crucial as educational institutions open up in Unlock 5.0. Setting-up of helpline desks to answer queries of students and parents as well as adapting the best international practices will contain the spread of the life-threatening corona virus.
Also read: Preparing children for school reopening