Easier Said Than Done, Govt Sets Up Near Impossible Conditions For Learners Return To School, Being Children As They Are.
21 June 2020
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State Media

School children boarding a bus to school. File picture

ALL schools’ out and indoor sporting activities have been suspended ahead of next month’s opening of learning institutions as Government implements measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The measures, which include the prohibition of learners from school playgrounds, engaging in choral practices and physical contact among others, are contained in Standard Operating Guidelines sent to all primary and secondary schools recently.

According to the guidelines, break and lunchtimes will be staggered or held in class.

Further, classrooms will accommodate not more than 35 learners seated one metre apart.

Learners are prohibited from sharing textbooks and other learning materials, with the Government encouraging hot sitting to accommodate all students.

The guidelines state that all school authorities should strictly adhere to the “new normal” and failure to do so attracts punitive action.

“As schools prepare for reopening, special considerations have been made to ensure the safety of both learners and teachers during the new normal,” read part of the guidelines.

“In light of this, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has developed Standard Operating Procedures which are meant to guide heads of schools, teachers, learners and stakeholders on how they should be conducting business.

“It is, therefore, made clear in this document that failure by any school head for any reason to observe these guidelines is deemed an act of misconduct and will attract serious disciplinary action.

“The seating arrangement in every classroom should be that there is a distance of one metre from one learner to another.

“To achieve this, there should be one learner at each desk or the school should use the desk and chair approach and a classroom should not accommodate more than 35 learners.

“Social and physical distancing should be practised in hostels, the use of bunk beds in hostels is therefore prohibited.

“All sporting activities, including matches, choral practice, indoor games and festivals are prohibited during the new normal.

“The use of play centres, sporting equipment, gymnasium and sporting facilities are prohibited since they may facilitate the transmission of coronavirus.

“Schools should avoid mixing learners for lessons and after-school activities. Learners in a class should stay in one classroom throughout the day while teachers move between classrooms in secondary schools.”

Also, each school will be required to have sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and a health coordinator trained by the Ministry of Health and Child Care before schools open.

Each classroom should be equipped with a hand washing facility, running water and soaps. Ablution facilities, according to the guidelines, should be cleaned and disinfected thrice a day.

Transport services will be required to carry one student per seat with a distance of one metre effected.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has also mandated schools to come up with Covid-19 awareness programmes for learners.

The start of the phased reopening of primary and secondary schools has been set for Tuesday, July 28.

Primary and Secondary school heads who spoke to this publication said they had no objection to the guidelines.

They, however, said their school coffers were empty.

“Though we were saying school heads are ready to work for as long as we receive material support in terms of resources such as masks and sanitisers, currently schools rely on fees and coffers are empty,” said one school head who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Government tasked schools to provide masks and sanitisers to their learners.

Teachers Unions have also been opposed to the opening of schools saying there was need for adequate time to procure PPEs.