BY: ANKITA SHARMA, VIDHYARTHI DARPAN
The world is under siege, fighting a battle against Coronavirus that has affected more than 90 million inhabitants with 2 million annual deaths.
As of 15 January 2021, India has crossed over 10.5 million confirmed cases, which is only second to the US (23.8 million cases). The pandemic has shaken the education sector. With the shutdown of almost all the schools and colleges for a year, operating them after reopen will need to follow intense health precautionary protocols. These should include social distancing, careful hand washing, use of facemasks (or face shield wherever possible), frequent sterilization, proper aeration, and so on to restrict the contamination of the virus.
With almost all of the schools and institutes shutting down to prevent large gatherings, suggestions from UNESCO indicates turning to online platforms and distance learning programs to continue unhampered studies. In areas where technology is limited, the transition from traditional learning to online learning is strenuous. Meanwhile, schools tend to reopen to resume education soon. It urges the administration to take rigorous precautionary measures to prevent community transmission.
In this crucial period, safe and actionable steps must be exercised to detect and prevent the outspread of the virus among the school community.
Some ground rules must follow to prevent the spread of deadly Coronavirus. Some compulsory measures are:
Frequent 20 Second Handwashing
According to WHO, regular handwashing is the most effective way to kill bacteria and viruses (including SARS-CoV 2 virus) and prevent its communicability. An ideal handwashing session lasts for 20 seconds with soap and water. The best way to wash hands is by the below process:
i) Wet your hands with water.
ii) Apply soap (soap strips, soap liquid, or soap bar).
iii) Cleanse your hands by thoroughly rubbing in between fingers, over & below palms, under nails for 20 seconds (make sure to turn the tap off during this step).
iv) Rinse your hands clean under running water.
v) Dry your hands using a paper towel or a clean cloth.
Repeat the above steps after every encounter with an uncleaned surface. You can use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content for instant sterilization. Even after sneezing or coughing, it is advisable to wash your hands. Besides this, students should avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth to stop the spread of pathogens.
Wear Cloth Face Masks
Covid-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, majorly spreads by infected water droplets in the air. In areas where social distancing cannot be perpetuated, a mask act as a barrier to control droplet spread and infection. It is, therefore, mandatory for students to maintain respiratory hygiene by wearing a cotton facemask. Correct use of masks and their hygiene can be carried out by:
Regular Cleaning and Disinfection
COVID-19 is an air-borne viral disease, majorly prompted by droplet transmission and spread by one-to-one direct/indirect contact. Unless there is thorough cleanliness, distancing, facemasks, and hand hygiene will be impertinent. Strategies to reduce contact with the plausible contaminants (doorknob, furniture, washbasins, taps, desks, stationary objects, etc.) should be customary. Regular disinfection and sanitization activities of classrooms should be made compulsory. A few suggestions to render a clean learning environment for the students are:
|Lowest||I) Teachers and students involved in virtual learning such as conduction of online lectures, participation in digitalized activities, discussion forums, etc.
II) No plausible physical contact.
|Low||I) Teachers and students involved in small group activities with least or no contact. Most of them conducting virtual classes.
II) There is no sharing of materials like stationery, notes, or encourage any type of physical contact.
III) Physical distancing followed strictly.
IV) Wash hands regularly and wear clean cotton masks at all times.
|Medium||I) Teachers and students involved small group activities of more than 5 people; frequent physical contact. Some conduct virtual classes.
II) There is some exchange of materials without precautionary measures.
III) One-to-one distancing is not followed.
IV) Wash hands regularly and wear clean cotton masks at all times.
|High||I) Teachers and students involved in in-person classes with frequent physical contact between them. Little to no virtual classes are held.
II) There is more than a usual exchange of materials without following precaution protocol.
III) Mixing up of teacher and students or amongst students. Social distancing not followed (increases risk of contracting Covid manifold).
IV) No frequent hand washing and masks are not worn at all times.
|Highest||I) Absolute in-person classes held with a high affinity for physical contact.
II) Exchange of materials between students and teachers or amongst students without using hand sanitizer or following precaution protocols.
III) Major physical contact like hand-shaking, hugs, sharing stationery, unwashed face touching, etc. Social distancing is completely neglected.
IV) No cleanliness. No frequent hand washes. No wearing of facemasks. No following safety protocols.
Checklist for Teachers and Staff
1) Provision of clean water supply for drinking, cleaning, and toiletries.
2) Promote and educate students on frequent hand wash sessions with soap and water, preferably for 20-30 seconds.
3) Provide enough sanitizers at every classroom, hall, playgrounds, staff room, and washrooms.
4) Proper ventilation and airflow should be there. Strictly follow hygiene practices (disposal of tissues after coughing or sneezing, sanitization of hands, prevent touching public areas/objects)
5) Maintain cleanliness by disinfecting the floors, classroom furniture, school building once a day using trusted disinfectants (0.5% sodium hypochlorite for surfaces and 70% ethanol for small objects)
6) Put signboards or security tapes to encourage to maintain a social distance, wear masks, often sanitize, avoid unnecessary touching, educate others.
7) Ensure classroom and staffroom trash is cleaned daily and disposed of safely.
8) Limit gathering of more than three people.
9) Advise sick students, teachers, and staff members to stay home.
10) Always be on alert and ready to aid in emergencies. Familiarize the protocols with students/teachers/parents in advance.
11) Cancel committee meetings, sports gathering, cultural programs, and other events that may attract needless crowds
12) Resolve any query regarding Covid-19 arising amongst students/teachers/caregivers.
13) Address students’ concerns and stress about changes experience by them with sympathy, support, patience, and understanding.
14) Have teachers move from class to class rather than students crowding the corridor after each period.
15) Have temperature taken during entry and exit from the school premises. If a discrepancy from the acceptable temperature range occurs, inform the concerned authority and isolate the person immediately.
Checklist for Parents
1) Be aware of the common initial symptoms of Covid-19 disease and regularly keep yourself updated. In case your ward shows symptoms such as cold, cough, or fever, ask for a few days’ leave from school till the sickness subsides.
2) Teach your child about quality hygiene practices like handwashing, sanitization, healthy tissue disposal habits, not touching eyes & nose often, among others.
3) Remember to check on your child’s mental health. Ask them about their day and how they are coping with the modifications.
4) Connect with school authorities to coordinate school safety protocols and information.
5) Teach your child the correct information regarding the prevailing situation; break stigmas using facts and figures.
Checklist for Students
1) Have accurate and updated knowledge about current trends of Covid-19 through authentic, reliable online sites (WHO, UNICEF, CDC). Educate yourself appropriately.
2) Follow safety protocols strictly – frequent hand wash with soap and water/sanitization, physical distancing, no sharing of personal items.
3) Isolate yourself when sick to prevent the spread of disease. Inform family members of the same.
4) Maintain 6 feet distance, not only at the school campus but also outside any public area.
5) Wear cotton masks that cover the nose and mouth region completely. Also, avoid touching/rubbing the nose and mouth over the facemask.