Plans to reopen schools within 2-3 weeks

By Shahaen Vishak

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are working towards the recommencement of schools within the next two to three weeks, and a discussion on this was held at the Health Ministry premises yesterday (15), which was attended by high-ranking officials from both ministries and chaired by Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

Here it was decided that the policy decision regarding the commencement of schools would be taken under the Education Ministry, while the Health Ministry would formulate the health safety rules governing their operation. It was also noted that there are around 5,000 schools with less than 200 students each, and that these schools are expected to be reopened soon. Focus is also to be placed on reopening preschools and schools with classes up to Grade 6.

Accordingly, the Education Ministry is to decide on the exact dates of recommencement for schools.

Minister Rambukwella pointed out that schoolteachers and non-academic staff have been fully vaccinated, while steps will be taken to ensure that those involved in school transport services will also be fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

Present at the meeting were Health Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, Education Ministry Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera, Director General of Health Services Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, senior officials of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, and other government officials.

State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana had earlier stated on Sunday (12) that the Government would reopen schools under several phases, which will first see rural schools with less than 100 students being reopened soon.

He had said: “We have focused on reopening schools with less than 100 children in rural areas first, as most of these schools are run without the use of public transport. We know these children are in areas where it is difficult to get an education through technology. This was focused when the decision was taken by the Presidential Task Force.”

Prof. Jayasumana also spoke on vaccinating schoolchildren against Covid-19, noting: “Four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine are due (to arrive) in October. We hope to use it for schoolchildren as appropriate. We hope to start vaccinating schoolchildren after the committee makes its recommendations.”