Schools to strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety protocol to provide uninterrupted education

With many positive cases reported in the country and students testing positive, schools have enhanced their COVID-19 safety protocol received from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Education (MoE).

COVID-19 test for students as well as staff are routinely done to ensure the safety to ensure that schools do not have to close down or resort to online teaching learning like in 2020.

All students undergo thermal screening and hand washing before entering their schools. DeSuups are deployed in all the schools to monitor the students. All normal school activities requiring mass gathering and co-curricular activities have been kept on hold.

The Bhutanese interviewed some of the school on how they are managing during the pandemic.

Changzamtog Middle Secondary School currently has 15 DeSuups helping and ensuring the school observes the health protocols. Principal Sonam Phuntsho said owing to the huge number of students, maintaining social distancing during the recess is quite challenging.

He said the two national lockdowns have immensely affected the schools, particularly in terms of delivering quality education. All teachers have an important task to ensure that bridging courses for students are conducted so that students can make up on lost lessons.

Unlike the past years, teaching and learning has become quite progressive with the use of ICT more frequently and vigorously. Teaching computer lessons right from pre-primary is a huge change that every school is bracing with.

Autonomy in teaching and learning is yet another big change. Textbooks are being used as a source of reference only by the teachers and students. The teachers now have the liberty to design and teach in different ways.

Principal of Samtse High School, Tshueltrim Dorji, said though the teachers and staff are vaccinated, the school strictly follows all the health protocols in the school.

The only challenge is maintaining social distancing among the children, which is impossible and even with the marking at various points, students are unable to comply with that. Given the shortage of teachers and classrooms, it is difficult to divide the students in order to have enough physical distance among the children.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the school is in a better position in dealing with substance abuse issues as no cases have been reported ever since the borders were closed.

In case of a community outbreak, the school will follow the online teaching learning as the school does not have the boarding facilities, said the Principal.

Vice Principal of Phuentsholing Lower Secondary School, Sangay Penjor, said the school has different reporting and dispersing time.

Other than following the required COVID-19 protocols, the school has done away with breaks. If any of the students need to use the washroom then they are accompanied by a DeSuup. The children must also remain inside their classroom to eat lunch.  The class teachers strictly monitor the lunch as no food sharing is allowed among them.

With the heat land humidity continuing to increase in the south, wearing face masks is difficult, but the students now are used to it more than in the beginning, he said.

The big concern for now is if any students get infected, Sangay Penjor said the school has an isolation room if in case any student shows flu like symptoms, the health coordination in the school will look into the matter.

Similarly, Principal of Shaba Primary School in Paro, Lhabu, said the school health in-charge  is taking the lead role in ensuring that the safety measures are in place. Morning assembly for all the class level is suspended. DeSuups help them to spray disinfectants for sanitation purpose once in a week, and short briefings on COVID-19 by class teachers and subject teachers are carried out on a daily basis.

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