2020-10-06 19:27:19 ; Viewed 465 Times

Re-opening schools despite COVID-19 outbreak

It is true that many students were sent home after the tale of corona virus began to spread in different parts of the world. Now, some countries have started reopening schools, while others have announced plans to reopen in the coming days. Is it because the pandemic is declining? Or people of the world are accepting to live with it?

In fact, at the beginning of March 2020, shortly after the appearance of Corona virus in China which started spreading rapidly around the world, many activities were halted, and students were also affected because in almost all countries students were asked to suspend their studies and go home. According to the estimate of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), more than 80% of the world's students have been already affected by closure of schools, with 167 Country-wide closures as of March 04, 2020 [1].

Although some technologically advanced countries have been helping their students learn online, it has been found that a large number of students have been affected by this COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNESCO, nearly 1.6 billion estimated at 91.3% of the total learners were affected, with 194 countrywide closures as of April 02 2020 and nearly 583,400,872 estimated at 33.3% of total enrolled learners remain affected, with 36 Countrywide closures of places as of October 06, 2020 [2].

The above-mentioned figures show a decline in countries with closed schools. But, we may wonder why these countries have re-opened and others are planning to re-open schools; while the COVID-19 pandemic still exists.

Well, some countries re-opened schools because they had seen COVID-19 outbreaks decline in their countries and others are planning to re-open by means of reinforced prevention measures. For instance, on 6th May 2020, China reopened schools in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began because the country had reported a decrease of confirmed cases.

But, despite the fact that some countries are re-opening schools, prevention measures are sternly enforced globally. For instance, in Denmark, Israel, and Norway to reduce the risk of infection, students' desks are spaced six feet apart, and parents are no longer allowed inside school buildings; which is the official recommendation for effective social distancing. In Norway, staff members at schools are expected to disinfect classrooms and toys twice a day to stem out the spread of the virus [3]

In Japan, Taiwan, and China, staff members are taking students' temperatures before they enter school buildings. Children with fever are sent home. Some students in Beijing were also given personal thermometers and are required to take their temperature twice a day while at school and some schools have designated rooms for isolating students with fever. In addition, Beijing students are required to fill out a survey on an app that calculates a person's risk of infection. Students may only enter schools if the app indicates that they are in good health. In Israel, parents have to sign a health form to confirm that their child does not have the coronavirus. If a family member has the coronavirus, then the child is not permitted to go to school [4]. 

In Rwanda, new classrooms are under construction where 22,505 classrooms are expected to be built to reduce overcrowding in schools as one of the strategies to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks when schools will be reopened. In addition, according to the Rwanda Education Board (REB), the teacher’s recruitment plan for 2020-2021 will be the biggest ever with 7,214 new staff needed to improve the students-teacher ratio and in the course of addressing the New Coronavirus which affected several services including education sector [5].

So, just because it is common in some countries that the pandemic is declining and re-increasing over time, it is very important that even if there is a decrease in the prevalence of this pandemic, measures to prevent its recurrence in schools should be intensified before schools re-open fully. This means that only schools that have been able to put in place COVID-19 prevention measures are the only ones which should be recommended to reopen.

Jean Claude IZABAYO