On the 15th February 2021 it is going to be all hands-on deck as schools prepare to start the new academic year. In 2020 COVID-19 caused havoc amongst the education industry as many schools around the globe had to close to try and curb the spread of the virus.
Children were forced to either learn from home or worse than that, learn nothing at all! The 2020 school year was in most cases a write off for many South African children.
The Department of Education after much discussion with other entities has now decided to officially start the 2021 school year in a few days’ time.
The question many parents are asking themselves is if they are ready to send their children back to school amidst the pandemic and how they are going to keep them safe.
Keeping Our Children Safe at School During the Pandemic
Unfortunately, the new South African variant of the virus contains a mutation known as N501Y which is believed to make the virus significantly more contagious than older variants. The South African variant also contains other mutations of concern, including E484K and K417N.
What this means is that parents and children alike are going to have to take exceptional precautions so as to prevent them from contracting the virus.
What Your Child’s School Needs to Do
Steps to encourage social distancing during school may include:
- Eliminating the use of lockers during the pandemic.
- Creating one-way traffic in school corridors and hallways.
- Using outdoor spaces whenever possible for teaching and break times.
- Reducing the number of children on school buses and taxis.
- Spacing desks according to the correct guidelines.
- Using physical barriers, such as plexiglass shields and partitions so as to separate educators and learners.
- Dividing learners up into groups that stay together during the school day and allow for the reduction in interaction.
There are different levels of social distancing within the school environment and it is important for a school to weigh up the risks and benefits for children who are at different stages in their education levels. Social distancing measures should be based on the child’s age and developmental stage.
What Children and Parents Need to Do
# 1 Practice Social Distancing
Social distancing is the practice of allowing enough space between individuals to reduce the spread of disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends keeping at least 2 meters of space between yourself and people outside your household in order to meet these goals (source).
This might not be practical in some schools or departments with younger children, as this can conflict with ideal academic, social and emotional learning standards.
# 2 Keep Hands Clean
Practice handwashing hygiene at home with your child at all times. Explain to them why it is important to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after eating, coughing, sneezing or adjusting their face mask.
When handwashing isn’t available, suggest that your child use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and explain to them the importance of avoiding touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Schools normally will encourage routines of frequent handwashing and will also follow other hygiene practices such as asking children to cover their mouths and noses with their elbows or tissues when they cough or sneeze.
As a parent it is important to help your child to develop daily routines before and after school that foster healthy habits. Teach them to pack a back-up face mask and hand sanitizer in the morning and wash their hands as soon as they arrive home from school.
# 3 Sanitize
Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces both at school and at home can help reduce the risk of illness. This includes frequently touched items such as chairs, desks, keyboards, tablets and cell phones.
Hand sanitizers should also be used at all times and you should give your child their own sanitizer to keep in their school bags.
Protective Hygiene sells a product called Air and Surface Sanitiser Spray that is made with 99.9% alcohol for complete protection for only R38-00. Perfect for your child’s school backpack! See our website for more information and ingredients.
# 4 Stay Home If Sick
Most schools do daily temperature readings as a part of COVID-19 symptom screening. Unfortunately, some of these symptoms can mimic other conditions, such as the common cold, allergies and influenza, so the effectiveness of this screening can be limited.
If your child is showing any symptoms of illness, then you should keep them at home so as to limit the spread of the virus
A parent should monitor their child each day for signs of COVID-19 and keep them at home if they exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches
- Nausea or vomiting
- Poor appetite
- Loss of taste or smell
- Pink eye
# 5 Wear A Mask and a Face Shield
Cloth face masks are an absolute necessity in public places where it is difficult to avoid close contact with others. This is mostly due to the fact that people with COVID-19 can transmit the virus before even realizing that they have it.
Tips on encouraging the use of face masks in children:
- Explain to your child that wearing a cloth face mask should be a priority especially when it’s hard to maintain social distancing.
- Talk to your child about the importance of wearing a face mask.
- Constantly remind your child that they should wash or sanitise their hands before and after touching their mask.
- Have multiple cloth face masks available for your child and provide them with a clean mask and back-up mask each day.
- Label your child’s mask so that it is not confused with another child’s mask.
- Teach your child how to properly put on and take off their face mask while avoiding touching the cloth portions or their face.
- Instruct your child to never share or trade masks with others.
In some instances younger children may be unable to wear a cloth face covering adequately, especially if it is for an extended period of time. Ideally, face shields should be used during these times. It is important to remember though that wearing cloth face masks is needed at times when it is hard to maintain a distance of 2 metres from others.
It is important to not place a face mask on a child who is younger than the age of 2, especially if they have any breathing problems or conditions that would prevent them from being able to remove the mask without help.
Feel free to browse through our catalogs to find the coolest or cutest mask for your children and teens! Our masks come in different flavours, colours and styles and our face shields are fun and funky so as to make wearing them fun and exciting for your children!