School re-opening for in-person teaching went smoothly |20 March 2021
The re-opening of the school for in-person teaching went smoothly as expected, and the Ministry of Education is satisfied with the way the procedure went, even if not everything was perfect.
Most of the local primary and secondary schools, except for the Baie Ste Anne Praslin primary school welcomed students back for in-person teaching on Monday March 15, marking the beginning of the 2021 academic year.
The Praslin-based school did not welcome any children due to the fact that two teachers tested positive for Covid-19 and they got in contact with 30 others, therefore, as a precautionary measure the school remain closed.
It was the principal secretary for early childhood, primary and secondary education, Dr Odile de Comarmond, who gave the confirmation yesterday, during a press conference at the International Conference Centre Seychelles (ICCS) to debrief on the first week of the in-person re-opening.
On the first three days of the re-opening, top ministry officials, including education minister Dr Justin Valentin had the chance to visit different schools to witness and assess the re-opening process.
Other than a special unit set up at the ministry’s headquarters, other partners, including the department of health and the Red Cross Society of Seychelles (RCSS) also provided their support during the process, especially in terms of safety guidance and measures in place.
In terms of learning, Dr de Comarmond said all the pupils and students were happy to be back at school, while the parents were relieved that their children can carry on with their education.
She further added that the schools will maintain a firm learning programme, providing the student with enough work to be completed during the one week that they will be at home.
Dr de Comarmond also noted that it is up to the parents to decide whether they feel it is safe to send their children to school, while the ministry will not force them to do so.
Director for health, safety and risk management within the ministry, Regina Prosper, said they re-worked and updated the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) – guidelines and protocols – which was set up last year, in partnership with department of health and re-briefed all head teachers to ensure that they were being observed.
She added that site visits were also carried out to monitor the process and also to assist schools with the implementation.
Ms Prosper noted that all the schools were observing the protocols, with special arrangements, including hand-wash stations and social distancing in terms of classroom settings, while the students and pupils also played their roles well by wearing their masks and carrying their hand sanitisers.
She however noted that ‘kids being kids’, there were some lapses, especially in terms of social distancing outside of the classrooms.
She explained that on several occasions, despite constant monitoring by teachers, some of the children managed to find a way to gather, and this, she said, needs constant education programme.
Another setback was that on several occasions, quarantined parents were sending their children to school, without specifying whether they were just under observation, or already tested positive.
She urged parents to take their responsibilities on that matter and do not send their children to school if they have tested positive, or in home quarantine.
Ms Prosper noted that two students and five staff members have tested positive so far, along with two members of cleaning agencies.
She explained that once a student tested positive, they instantly link with health department to do the necessary procedures, including contact tracing and further tests, while keeping in contact to offer moral support and arrangements for learning materials.
Dr Sanjeev Pugazhendhi, a member of the Public Health Emergency Operations Committee talked on the procedures carried out in event of positive cases including students (under 20 years old).
In a presentation to explain how to handle Covid-19 in school settings, he noted that until end of February, over 250 cases have been recorded in that age group.
He explained that where a student or staff has taken PCR when feeling ill, the person must stay at home until the results are available and that when a child has tested positive for Covid-19, contact tracing will be done jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.
Where another member of the same household has tested positive, the remainder of the household (especially if vaccinated) will be asked to quarantine, while children from the same circle should not attend school, until the family member is released from quarantine.
In terms of children who are positive, Dr Pugazhendhi said positive cases should isolate for a minimum of ten (10) days from the date of sample collection for which the test returned positive.
He added that the period may be extended up to 21 days if the child develops Covid-19 illness.
He also explained that close contacts will need to quarantine at home for 14 days and a parent, or guardian must stay with the child under quarantine.
A Covid-19 PCR test is expected to be done on the tenth day after the last date of contact with a positive case and once the result is confirmed negative, the child may return to school.