Schools to Reopen in Four Stages
By Rebecca Pavey and Thameenah Razeek
Schools across the island will be re-opened in four stages, once the ongoing travel restrictions have been lifted, the Ministry of Education stated. Speaking at a media briefing, Secretary to the Ministry, Prof. Kapila Perera said it has been decided to reopen schools in four stages, as instructed by the Director General of Health Services. Accordingly, Grades 1 to 5 of 3,884 schools, with less than 200 students, will commence in the first stage, Prof. Perera said.
He explained the decision to reopen schools from Grades 1 to 5 was taken since children aged below 12 do not require the COVID-19 vaccination. “As of now, no country has mandated, or identified the need for children aged below 12 to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said in this regard.
The Professor, however, requested parents to refrain from sending their children to school in the event their child is unwell, warning them (the parents) of the dangers such exposure may pose to both their child, and other children. Prof. Perera further stated the vaccination of children aged between 12 and 15, and 16 and 19 will commence soon, based on the advice of the expert committee comprising members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and officials of the Ministries of Health and Education.
He noted, however, the reopening of Grades 6 to 13 will depend on when the vaccination drive for students aged between 12 and 15 and 16-19 commences, and which group will be administered with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, cleaning of schools islandwide will commence within the next two weeks and the opening dates of the schools will be announced as soon as health recommendations are received. Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena said he met all the Governors to discuss the situation, and that Provincial Directors of Education and other officials visited the schools on Friday (24).
As a result, school development committees, community Police, PHIs and parents will begin cleaning the schools within the next two weeks, and schools will be reopened as soon as the recommendations are received, after certifying the hygiene of the schools. He however, mentions that there are 5,131 schools in Sri Lanka with fewer than 200 students, and that these schools will be the first to reopen.
He also noted that there are 3,884 schools conducting classes ranging from kindergarten to Grade 5, and these schools might also reopen as well. “A hundred paediatricians from each education zone have been appointed to monitor the children. No child with a symptom such as typhoid or fever will be sent to school,” he noted.