Tips to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 at School

South Africa is currently under lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and while some of us are eager for schools to reopen (goodbye cabin fever), we should continue to act cautiously once they do. Every effort we take after the lockdown will help mitigate the spread of the corona virus. 

Corona virus and your classroom

Don’t panic! You and your school can get through this. The first step is to explain the situation to your students. Thanks to social media and panicky parents, they may have a misinformed idea of what’s going on.

Explain the virus to your students

The only way to get them to take hygiene precautions seriously is if they know what’s going on. Keep in mind that what you say and how you say it will either increase or decrease anxiety. Here’s what to tell your class:

  • Explain the situation in a way that is appropriate to their age and understanding. If your students are young, give them the basics.
  • State very clearly that the virus is no excuse for bullying behaviour towards other students.
  • Be calm and reassuring. Children will follow your verbal and nonverbal cues.
  • If true, emphasise to your class that they and their families are fine.
  • Remind them that you and the school have their best interests at heart and want to keep them healthy.
  • Let the class share their thoughts. This will allow you to reframe their concerns into a healthier perspective.

Next is to implement good hygiene habits. We’re all in this together, so the following applies to staff and learners alike.

Tips for personal hygiene 

The key to minimising the spread of COVID-19 is hygiene; we’re talking clean clean. While remembering to do all this may be difficult in the beginning, it will become habit pretty quickly (if they aren’t already).

  • Wash hands regularly, for at least 20 seconds each time (Twinkle, twinkle, little star sung slowly works for little ones, and any of these classics for teenagers and adults).
  • Cough / sneeze into a tissue or into the crook of your elbow. Throw the tissue away immediately.
  • Avoid physical contact with others (wave instead of hugging or shaking hands). Encourage your students to not touch their faces.
  • Stay home if they (or you) are sick.

Tips for school hygiene

There’s not much use in making sure we’re spick-and-span if our environment isn’t. 

  • Clean hands with hand sanitiser before entering and exiting each class.
  • Disinfect surfaces like door handles, desks, tables, and handrails regularly.
  • Limit food sharing.
  • Rearrange or postpone large group activities that mix different classes and grades, like assembly. 
  • Encourage parents to drop off and pick up their children themselves, instead of using the bus or carpooling.
  • Practice social distancing. Push chairs as far away from each other as possible, and encourage students to line up with space between each other (you could mark places on the floor with tape).

We know these extra steps will initially be disruptive, but try to make them a part of the new routine as soon as possible. Familiarity and routine will help students and staff feel normal. With these precautions in place you and your students stand a much better chance of avoiding the corona virus.

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