Written by: Michelle Ramalingam
Date: November 2020
In some areas, students have been learning virtually for nearly a year. Closures of educational institutions in retaliation to the COVID-19 pandemic are bringing forward an unanticipated test to children’s education globally. With the rise of school closure numbers, and many schools pausing for holiday break, a new World Health Organization (WHO) checklist has been presented to assist the various levels of authority that are currently making decisions in order to reopen schools safely. The list is intended to help improve adherence to current public health rules pertaining to coronavirus that were originally composed to protect students in academic settings.
According to Dr. Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion, “Schools can reopen safely. Decisions to reopen schools should be driven by data and the safety measures in place, but also address the concerns of students, parents, caregivers and teachers. These concerns are best addressed if reopening approaches are co-designed with students, parents, caregivers, and teachers.”
The checklist has been developed to support compliance to previously instated health safety regulations. It centers on preventative methods including, but not limited to, regular hand washing, respiratory etiquette, utilizing masks in public locations, and social distancing. Over half of the essential measures stated by the WHO in the aforementioned checklist concentrate on individual actions to ensure the return to equitable and high-quality education while protecting the health and well-being of all students. These include implementing floor markings to indicate necessary distances for physical distancing, altering school schedules to stagger recesses and breaks, and establishing sanitization stations within campuses.
The WHO strongly endorses complete and strong engagement of both students and guardians in order to adapt to the new educational environment. Students can be active participants in strengthening efforts, and guardians can reinforce public health messages. The actions in response to COVID-19 encourage schools to devise and execute policies, procedures, and protocols to combat increased transmission of the virus. The aim is to allow students to regain a sense of normalcy while still being meticulous in adhering to safety measures.