Schools in Oman gear up for new normal with masks, sanitisers   

MUSCAT: Students and teachers have to face the new normal when the schools reopen in the Sultanate even as coronavirus cases show no signs of decline.

The Ministry of Education has said a number of committees have been set up to look at suitable mechanisms to ensure a healthy school environment. Schools and educational institutions were suspended in Oman on March 15.

The Ministry of Health quoting Dr. Noura bint Saif al Hosani, woman and child health consultant, said, “Irrespective of whether schools and universities will reopen in a phased manner or not, it will certainly be different from the past. Students will sit at a distance of more than a meter from each other and will wear masks. Teachers may also wear masks. There will be some sessions outdoors if possible as chances of infections are greater in confined places.”

It will be also important for school healthcare workers to check the temperature of the students and offer them hand sanitisers before entering school. Students with COVID-19 symptoms will be sent back home. She added that in the long term, schools will be redesigned to avoid crowding with more focus on e-platforms.

“I’m in no rush for schools to open as I would not want to compromise on my child’s health. I respect all government decisions and I know they are doing the best they can to curb the infection. We are all equipped with the necessary tools nowadays to ensure our kids have access to online education. It is time to accept the ‘new normal’ and move ahead with the changes rather than sitting down and complaining. If this is how our kids need to adapt, so be it. As the saying goes – the earlier children learn and adapt the better,” said Priya Avasthi, a parent in Muscat.

Nisha Kumar, another parent, said, “It is a dilemma. Children miss their interaction with teachers and classmates. They are catching up with online classes and the new way of schooling. Schools and students have coped well. But the question is how safe is it to go back to the typical school environment? As parents, we cannot help but worry. But they cannot stay secluded either. Children will have to be taught about the new norms.”

Global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman said in its report Re-opening Schools Post COVID-19, “The opening strategies must include a pre-opening, opening and post-opening framework and entail fundamental changes to logistics, processes, and procedures to ensure safety and a smooth opening of operations for school communities.”

“I would wish that the schools open in September or later. By that time children will be more equipped with information and dos and don ts of COVID 19 and also hopefully some medicine will be launched. Teachers are doing a great job even now in e-schools and my children are learning well in the safe environment of home,” Rashmi Sahay, a parent.