Tough guidelines in place before learning resumes

Thursday, September 17th, 2020 00:00 |
A parent fits her daughter with new school uniform ahead of school reopening for first term in January. Photo/PD/FILE

The government has issued stringent guidelines for reopening of schools to ensure they fully comply with Covid-19 containment measures.

Education Principal Secretary Dr Belio Kipsang said the guidelines provide clear and actionable guidance on measures for physical re-opening, safe operations through prevention, early detection, and control of Covid-19 in all learning institutions.

The tough guidelines offer the clearest indication yet that the government is laying the ground to reopen schools as soon as next month with proposals that learning resumes in phases, starting with examination classes.

“The pandemic has disrupted learning for more than 18 million learners and trainees in Kenya.

It is anticipated that the learners and trainees will begin their remaining learning time of the respective education level calendar as recommended in the Covid-19 response education committee report,” Dr Kipsang’, who has signed the 43-page document, said.

Under the guidelines, all schools will be expected to have an emergency health facility within a 10-kilometre radius and collaborate with counties to have some health personnel assigned to the institution for regular health monitoring and sensitisation.

They will carry out risk assessment for suitability, focusing on space, water, sanitation, provision of meals, transport of learners using the risk assessment matrix provided by the ministry and develop mitigation measures.

Updated biodata

“Ensure there is a designated room within the institution premises for use as a sick bay or for temporary isolation in case presumed cases occur in institutions and collaborate with Ministry of Health through the sub-county education office to map quarantine centres at least one per sub-county in case of reoccurrence of the outbreak,” the ministry directs.

Care must be taken to isolate minors especially the girl child and ensure students’ rights are safeguarded at all costs.

During and after reopening, the management is to maintain an updated biodata of all learners, contact numbers and home addresses of parents or caregivers for ease of management of emergencies.

There must be consistent provision of clean running water, at least five litres per person per day for day scholars and 20 litres per person for boarders and adequate water storage facilities.

No school will be allowed to be in session in the absence of clean running water, the report states.

Schools will develop learners’ movement protocols including designating entrances and exits for different learner cohorts, sectioned off common spaces, and floor markings to direct foot-traffic flows.

Buildings including toilets are to be cleaned and disinfected using water and disinfectant and frequently touched surfaces such as desktops, door handles, switches, door frames and book covers, at least twice a day.

The management have been tasked with ensuring learners are free from stigmatisation about Covid-19 by any member of the institution community and prepare structured and regular spiritual services.

Enhanced and sustained feeding programmes to promote health and school attendance should be maintained.

“Follow up on all cases of absenteeism in liaison with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to minimise dropouts. Streamline learner/trainee transport management systems to prevent transmission of infections,” the guidelines state.

There will be a weekly progress report on the status of institution health and safety, while any issue that might compromise curriculum implementation should be submitted to the sub–county director of education while staff should be kept informed of important developments.

With regards to social distancing, institution activities, playing, training and learning will take place outside classrooms, lecture halls or tutorial rooms as much as possible.

Where learners will be in class, the administration will create physical distance between them and place desks or working tables at least one meter apart from one another, and one metre apart from all doors to avoid any physical contact or air contamination.

Desks will be arranged in rows facing forward to minimise learners being in face-to-face contact and they will be cleaned and disinfected daily and will not be shared.

Each classroom or lecture hall should have pedal-operated waste collection bins with liners.

For latrines, all learning institutions should have adequate, clean and well maintained toilets at a ratio of 1 door to 25 girls and 1 door to 30 boys with a urinal and disinfected thrice a day.

Break times will be staggered to limit the number of learners visiting the toilet at any given time and all institutions should have age and gender appropriate and disability friendly toilets.

Swimming should be halted in all educational institutions until Covid-19 risk is at the lowest level as guided by the Ministry of Health.

Assemblies, inter institution competitions including games, drama, music, sports and other events that create crowded conditions have been suspended for the time being.

“Institutions will hold class mini-assemblies to pray, pass health messages and make announcements.

Activities that involve physical contact will be substituted by other activities that allow for safe physical distancing.

There will be no gymnastics at all institutions for the time being until advised,” the guidelines provide.

For pre-primary school, there shall be no sleeping and provision of mattresses at school and children will be released to go home immediately after the day’s lessons.

For boarding facilities, dormitories will be adapted to ensure there is no congestion and maintain a distance of at least one metre between beds from either side and where possible, boarding will be optional.

Use of double decker beds must meet social distancing of at least one metre between each occupant and learners will not be allowed to share personal effects.

Staggered eating shifts by class cohorts will be considered where the population is high to avoid crowding in the dining hall and where possible, lunches and afternoon snacks will take place within classes.

There will be no sharing of food and utensils. Food handlers and cleaners will be required to have personal protective equipment, including gloves, apron and facemasks, to promote hygiene.

Maintain health

For transport protocol, class teachers will meet learners below 9 years at the institution gate at the start of the day and escort them to the exit at pick up times to limit public entering the institutions.

Where possible, elderly caregivers of above 58 years should not pick up or drop off learners because they would be at increased risk of contracting Covid-19. 

The guidelines have been released as the Covid-19 committee on education considers the reopening of schools based on declining numbers of the disease in the last two weeks.

In the report, schools’ management have been tasked with a huge responsibility to ensure the safety of all learners and staff, which will also have huge budget implications.

The PS has directed education institutions to maintain health and safety protocols which will be assessed from time to time, failing which they will face immediate closure.

Prior to reopening, educational institutions are to develop policies and procedures suitable in their own environment to enable the smooth resumption of learning.

They are also to provide a budget for putting in place a safe and protective learning environment to ensure all health protocols required in the fight against Covid-19 are observed.

Schools should devise an appropriate flexible learning environment by using e-learning and offline learning platforms to cater for those who might miss school due to illnesses and other causes.

“Prior to reopening educational institutions, they are to revise budget to prioritise infrastructure to maintain social distance, provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to mitigate risks, and focus on remedial education and training to compensate for lost instructional time,” the guidelines provide.

Once the institutions are reopened, the ministry directs that they adopt proactive approaches to reintegrate most vulnerable learners and trainees in order to pick up quickly in learning.

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