Schools are not ready to re-open, says Committee

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The pandemic is on the rise and schools are not yet ready to re-open, said the Parliamentary Committee on COVID-19 Preparedness and Response said about the government’s decision to re-open the schools in a phased manner by June this year.

The Prime Minister has issued directives to prepare reopening of schools in the country from June this year onwards with “the mandatory prerequisite of enough drinking water and availability of hand-washing stations respectively,” stated a press release from the education ministry. 

However, the chair-person of the committee, MP Dorji Wangdi said despite schools reopening at a certain point of time even after COVID-19 pandemic subsides, the threat of the pandemic could still linger.

 “I don’t think we are ready to reopen the schools yet, the earliest I can think is by July,” he said, adding maximum assurances of safety have to be made to do so.

According to the committee, it will be extremely important to put in place Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on COVID-19 precautionary measures, he said. “Install common minimum amenities in all the schools throughout the country before the schools reopen.”

He added the committee recommends that the government institute specific SOP for COVID-19 to be uniformly followed and install minimum sanitation and hygiene amenities in all the schools.

“Similarly, develop SOPs for the general public, for example, for entertainment centers, workplaces, public gatherings, shopping centers, etc., emulating the best practices adopted elsewhere,” he said.

The committee stated that many Bhutanese have started returning home from outside. There are reports of some not declaring health information correctly. “Should the pandemic break out in schools and educational institutions, it will be the biggest risk. They will neither be able to manage safety and hygiene nor observe social distancing.”

“Postpone the reopening of schools. However, provide clear direction and support to schools for making up classes and covering syllabus on time, especially for classes X and XII students,” the joint committee recommended.

PM Dr. Lotay Tshering has clearly emphasized on enough drinking water and availability of hand washing stations in the schools as prerequisite for reopening of schools as preparedness to combat COVID-19 pandemic.

The directive has been conveyed to the Dzongkhags and Thromdes to initiate supply of pipe water or create storage facilities, and also install hand washing stations as per the standard design, rationally considering number of students and staff before end of May 2020.

Further, the budget for hand washing stations and water supply is to be appropriated from the stipend saved from the month of March-May 2020. The Ministry of Education is to support the funding gap in case of deficits.

The directives also states government’s concern over education of children and equally, care for their health and well-being.  All Dzongkhags and thromdes are directed to carry out the work at the earliest so that the schools can be re-opened safely as and when the government decides on the date.

pic courtesy: google

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu

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