New anti-COVID-19 environment awaits Kenyan students as schools re-open

NAIROBI (Xinhua) – Kenyan learners, teachers and school workers will be required to wear face masks at all times, maintain physical distance and check for COVID-19 symptoms daily once learning resumes before the end of the year.

The measures are contained in safety protocols formulated by Kenya’s Ministry of Education to guide the physical re-opening of schools that were shut on March 15 following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidelines outline measures that will enhance safety of students, prevent, early detect and control COVID-19 in educational institutions.

“These guidelines apply to pre-primary schools, primary, secondary, adult and continuing education centres and teacher training colleges,” said the ministry.

Under the new protocols, students and teachers will always maintain physical distance to curb spread of the disease.

“In education settings, social distancing of at least one metre will be required to be maintained in the commonly shared areas like classrooms and halls of residence. They shall be adapted to ensure there is no congestion and where possible, boarding will be optional,” the ministry said. Schools will limit the entrance of outsiders, including parents.

“Learners who are below nine will be picked at the institutions’ gate at the start of the day and escorted to the exit at pick up times to limit public entering the institutions,” it said.

When it comes to games, fields shall be appropriately marked to ensure learners play different games that avoid touching or holding.

“Swimming will be halted in all educational institutions until the COVID-19 risk is at the lowest level as shall be guided by the Ministry of Health,” said the ministry.

Food handlers and cleaners will be required to have personal protective equipment to promote basic health and hygiene.

The food handlers would also need to have food handling certificates and would be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

“All food handlers shall undergo a symptomatic screening for COVID-19 on a daily basis. Those with symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fatigue should be allowed to seek medical attention,” the ministry said.

Schools will also ensure they have a qualified nurse in-charge or have arrangements with local health centres to manage learners in case of health risks.

All schools will also be required to have graphic posters of COVID-19 preventive measures in classrooms for learners and staff to see and be reminded of what they should do.

“Children shall not share materials like markers, scissors, crayons, and pencils and will be released to go home immediately after completing the day’s lessons. There shall be no sleeping and provision of mattresses at school,” said the ministry.

In the new school environment, all learners and staff shall wear age-appropriate face masks at all times.

Schools will be required to provide adequate water points at strategic locations for handwashing and they should include pedal-operated taps and devices or water dispensers with sensors to minimise hand contact and reduce the risk of infection.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the government developed the guidelines as part of its response and recovery plan for the sector.

“These are also aimed at facilitating production of online teaching and learning materials and to expand existing remote learning programmes, to ensure access to learning opportunities provided,” he said.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said that schools will be re-opened before the end of the year, citing a decline in COVID-19 infections in the East African nation.