Photo Courtesy: UNICEF Bhutan

Opening of Schools and ECCDs in Thimphu and Paro will depend on directives from MoH

All the schools, Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD), Non-Formal Education (NFE) and Community Learning Centre (CLC) are scheduled to open in the country as announced by the the Ministry of Education.

However, the opening of schools and other centers in Thimphu and Paro will depend on the directives and advice from the Ministry of Health.

The Education Secretary Karma Tshering said if the lockdown is lifted in Thimphu and Paro, as announced the schools in these two dzongkhags will also open, but nothing can be said for now since on a daily basis there are new positive cases detected.

He said it is very difficult to say for now.

If the health ministry or the government does not lift the lock down, then the schools will not be open for them and they will continue with the online teaching learning. Even now classes from IX to XII despite challenges are going on with online classes.

The Secretary said the schools are opening because education has to continue either by online teaching learning or face to face teaching learning.

Since children below 18 years are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, so the only safety measures is to adhere with the safety protocols and guidelines. He said these safety protocols and guidelines must be strictly followed by all the schools.

From time to time students will be tested to make sure that there are no students infected, said the education secretary.

The education ministry has set up guidelines and safety protocols for re-opening of schools and centers in the country.

All the schools and the centers should ensure that soap and safe water is available and they should encourage thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds.

They have to clean and disinfect school buildings, classrooms and especially water and sanitation facilities at least once a day. Schools/centers should have proper DrukTrace app displayed in the entry points.

Students should have daily attendance, whereas staff, NFE learners and visitors should use DrukTrace App.

There should be enough ventilation. If flu like symptoms is observed, students must report to school health in charge. All the staff and students/learners must check temperature before entering the school/center campus.

Schools have to confirm the students are adequately spaced so that physical distancing protocol is stringently put in place for safety.

They have to verify if protocols around safe food and drink are adhered to if the children are accessing school meals (which many more children will require in future). Indeed food insecurity is a major argument for re-opening schools at least for the poor and vulnerable communities. Schools have to refrain sick students/learners, teachers/facilitators/instructors and other staff coming to school for safety reasons.

The most important directive is on the use of face masks.

Many parents have expressed that it is too early to open schools in the country due to the risk of further spreading the virus.

The Education Secretary said it is true and even the ministry has expressed concerns but the ministry is going by the health ministry’s advices and if they say it is safe to open schools then the schools will be open.

As per the schedule class PP to III will report on 15th of February, class IV to VIII will report on 3rd February and the classes for IX, X and XII will open by 1st April for 2021 academic year. And for class XI, they will open by mid-April.

All the teachers will report to school on 1st February.

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