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As schools re-open, it’s important that precautions are taken both inside and outside the classroom to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is contained in an article by UNICEF, which aims at supporting teachers with information and tips on:
A key lesson learned during the pandemic is the important role teachers play in ensuring that learning continues. As schools re-open, a lot will depend on teachers to ensure that children will be able to continue their education in a safe and healthy environment; and make up for knowledge and skills that may have been lost.
As a teacher, knowing the facts will not only protect yourself but also your students. Be aware of fake information and dangerous myths about COVID-19 circulating that are feeding fear and stigma.
Some of your students might be returning to school from households where they heard false information about COVID-19. You will need to educate them on the facts.
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Understanding COVID-19, how it spreads and how we can protect ourselves and others is an important first step in establishing classroom procedures and protocols. Students need to understand what it is in order for them to follow the rules. Listen to their concerns and ideas and answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner. Discuss the different reactions they may experience and explain that these are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
Make sure to use information about COVID-19 from reliable sources such as UNICEF and WHO, as well as the health authorities in your country. By staying informed about the situation and following the recommendations of public health experts, we can protect our own wellbeing and those around us.
Physical distancing at schools
As schools re-open, when it comes to physical distancing, it is important that you establish some classroom ground rules in accordance with the procedures established by your school’s administration, as well as the protocols established by your respective country’s Ministry of Health and/or local health bodies and authorities.
Recommended measures include:
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To encourage your students to stick to the rules, it can be helpful to create a dos and don’ts list with them. Develop a list together around how students will greet each other; how desks will be arranged; physical distancing measures during lunch breaks (who they will sit with, play with during breaks, how they can schedule time with all of their friends across the week).
Health and hand hygiene
Teachers have a critical role to play in ensuring students understand the precautions they should take to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, and it is important you lead by example in the classroom.
Handwashing is one of easiest, more cost efficient and effective way of combating the spread of germs and keeping students and staff healthy.
Teach the five steps for handwashing as schools re-open.
If there is limited access to a sink, running water or soap in the school, then use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.
Did you know? Cold water and warm water are equally effective at killing germs and viruses – as long as you use soap!
Encourage students to get into the practice of regularly washing their hands and/or applying hand sanitizers at key moments, such as entering and leaving the classroom; touching surfaces, learning materials, books, and after using a tissue to blow their nose.
Students should always cough and/or sneeze into their elbow. However, if by accident they do so in/on their hands, instruct them to immediately wash their hands or apply hand sanitizer. If students sneeze or cough into a tissue, ensure that it is disposed of immediately and that they wash their hands. It is extremely important to normalize the idea of frequent and routine handwashing.
Even with clean hands, encourage students to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. Germs can transfer from those areas on to their clean hands and spread around the classroom this way.
Reinforce frequent handwashing and sanitation and procure needed supplies. Prepare and maintain handwashing stations with soap and water, and if possible, place alcohol-based hand sanitizers in each classroom, at entrances and exits, and near lunchrooms and toilets.
Identify some practical steps/activities you can take to demonstrate good hygiene practices to your students as schools re-open. Examples include:
Mask wearing in schools
If wearing fabric masks is recommended in your school, then make sure your students are familiar with when they should wear masks and any related school policies, such as how to dispose of used masks safely to avoid the risk of contaminated masks in classrooms and playgrounds.
Explore with your students how to handle and store masks properly.
All efforts should be made to ensure the use of a mask does not interfere with learning. No children should be denied access to education because of mask wearing or the lack of a mask because of low resources or unavailability.
If you have students with disabilities, such as hearing loss or auditory problems in your class, then consider how these children may miss learning opportunities because of the degraded speech signal stemming from mask wearing, the elimination of lip-reading and speaker expressions and physical distancing. Adapted masks to allow lip-reading (e.g. clear masks) or use of face shields may be explored as an alternative to fabric masks.
Cleaning and disinfecting
Information on how to maintain the cleanliness and sanitization of your classroom as schools re-open.
Daily cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, taps, phones and toys.
Immediately clean surfaces and objects that are visibly soiled. If surfaces or objects are soiled with body fluids or blood, use gloves and other standard precautions to avoid coming into contact with the fluid. Remove the spill, and then clean and disinfect the surface.
Tips for staff using cleaning materials
Come up with some fun and creative ideas and rules with your students for avoiding high-risk and high-touch areas in their school/classroom. For example, not touching the railing while walking up and down the stairs, or keeping classroom doors open to avoid touching door-knobs
Come up with some rules together as a group and write these down on a flip-chart paper that you can later hang up in the classroom
Create fun reminders/posters that can be hung in the hallways to remind others to stick to the sanitation rules.
Actions to take if one of your students appears to be sick
Identifying COVID-19 symptoms
The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, confusion, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and skin rashes.
Schools re-open preparations and what to do if one of your students displays any of the symptoms
Create your own infection control plan. What actionable steps do you take if a student reports feeling ill during the school day? Consider all possible steps as schools re-open you can take from the moment they tell you.
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