Schools to reopen on July 1: Education Minister

Schools to reopen on July 1: Education Minister

Minister of Education Dr Aishath Ali, on Monday, announced that schools across the country would reopen on July 1.

Speaking at a press conference held at the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC), the minister emphasized the importance of reopening schools, noting that schools served as much more than educational facilities. She also highlighted that schools facilitated children's social development in addition to providing a safe learning environment for some children.

On June 11, the government announced its decision to reopen schools in July.

According to the minister, when school reopens, thermal screening will be conducted by trained professionals at school gates daily, while facemasks will be required to be worn as part of standard school uniform.

In order to ensure social distancing, Minister Aishath revealed that classrooms of 30 to 32 students would be reduced to 16 children. Additionally, reminders to practice social distancing will be placed around schools.

The government's school breakfast scheme will be temporarily discontinued as a safety measure.

Furthermore, teachers are to be trained in basic psycho-social support to be able to handle possible mental health difficulties faced by students. A total of 11,000 teachers are scheduled to participate in the first round of training.

"I want to give assurance to parents that the school environment will be safe for students", said the minister.

Minister Aishath went on to reveal the emergency response plan, which was compiled with assistance from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Priorities outlined in the response plan are:

- Guaranteeing the safety of schools

- Providing uninterrupted education

- Ensuring that vulnerable students have adequate resources

- Building resilience and ensuring protection from the virus

- Efficiently managing and coordinating schools

Education ministry's Senior Policy Director Moosa Adam previously disclosed that schools across the country would be categorized into three groups during the new normal. Schools located in islands under complete lockdown are prohibited from reopening while those in islands placed under monitoring by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) are permitted to teach students from grade 9 and above. Schools in islands with no reported cases of COVID-19 are allowed to resume classes.

He stated that curriculums were revised and that school managements were informed of the changes. He added that online teaching methods and Telekilaases would also be used in addition to classroom learning in the new normal.

The closure of schools, universities and training facilities was one of the first measures implemented by the government after declaring a state of public health emergency on March 12 in response to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the lockdown first declared on April 15, authorities commenced the phased easing of restrictions on May 28, with the second phase beginning on June 15. This allows movement without a permit for essential needs, businesses and delivery services, as well as other necessities within limitations as stated by the HPA.

As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Maldives' capital Malé recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the first weeks following the first confirmed local transmission on April 15. However, the number of recoveries recorded daily are now consistently higher than newly confirmed cases.

Maldives presently records a total of 2,065 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 515 are active cases. The country records 1,540 recoveries and eight deaths.

WHO has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 8.1 million people and claimed over 439,100 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, 4.2 million people have recovered.