Reopening schools: Fourth phase begins tomorrow

  • Special learning recovery plan in place
  • Classes with less than 20 students to attend school daily
  • Classes with students up to 40 to attend school in batches
  • Health authorities urge to strictly follow health guidelines

By Sarah Hannan  

With the fourth phase of school reopening scheduled to take place on Monday (22), Sri Lanka will have students from all grades attending school. Accordingly, schools will commence lessons for students in grades six through nine.

The Ministry of Education has informed that with schools expected to accommodate students at full capacity, separate health guidelines were issued to schools on how they are to bring in students to class.

Explaining the method in place, Ministry of Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera noted: “Classrooms that have 20 or fewer students can conduct lessons every day of the week, whereas classrooms that have up to 40 students will have to divide the class into two batches. These students can attend school on alternating days or on alternating weeks. That way, the necessary physical distancing can be maintained inside the classroom.”

Prof. Perera also noted that the special learning recovery plan would apply to students in grades six through nine as well, where compulsory elements for each of their subjects will be covered in a span of 20 weeks. Accordingly, the syllabus for one term will be covered in a span of four weeks. They would cover the second and third term lessons for 2020 and then the three terms for 2021.

The Ministry of Education, along with the National Institute of Education had designed a special learning recovery plan that includes the compulsory elements of each of the subjects for the respective grades. Schools are expected to complete lesson modules for 2020 and 2021 by April 2022, and the curriculum for 2022 is to be covered between April-December 2022.

Rise in Covid cases 

Galle District Regional Epidemiologist Dr. Eranga Hettiarachchi recently shared with the media that between the period of 31 October and 14 November, 64 schoolchildren from 28 schools in the Galle District were diagnosed with Covid-19.

The Public Health Inspectors’ Union (PHIU) too had observed that there was an increase in Covid-19-positive cases among schoolchildren after schools reopened.

“Several teachers from primary grades had tested positive for Covid-19, and we had to place the students of these classes under home quarantine. Most of these cases were reported from Southern, Western, and Central Province schools,” PHIU President Upul Rohana explained.

Rohana urged parents and teachers to keep a close watch on children who might develop symptoms, and have asked them to advise the children on following the basic health guidelines when they are at home and at school.

Health officials warned that if the number of daily reported cases of Covid-19 increases, there is a risk of schools being closed again.

Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital Paediatrician Dr. Deepal Perera pointed out that the incidence of Covid-19 infections among schoolchildren was recording an upward trend.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of Covid-19 patients across Sri Lanka. Covid-19 infections among children of school-going age have shown an increase as well. As a result, our school system may have to close again. Therefore, adults need to be more careful not to take this disease home. Moreover, parents and teachers need to pay close attention should a child develop symptoms. If a child shows symptoms at home, seek immediate medical attention, and do not send them to school until they get better. If the child develops symptoms at school, the class teacher should immediately send the child to the sick room and inform a parent, who would then have to take the child to the doctors,” Dr. Perera elaborated.