These guidelines include practical measures and checklists for administrators, teachers, parents, and children.
GENEVA / NEW YORK – GENEVA / NY – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF, and therefore the World Health Organization (WHO) today released new directions to assist children and schools protect themselves from the transmission of COVID-19 coronavirus disease. These guidelines provide basic elements and practical checklists to keep schools safe. They also provide advice to national and local authorities on the possibilities of adapting and implementing emergency plans for educational facilities.
In the event of school closings, these guidelines contain recommendations to mitigate any negative impact on children’s learning and well-being. This involves having solid plans to ensure continuity of learning, including through distance learning options, such as online education strategies and the broadcasting of educational content by radio, and to ensure preserve access to essential services for all children. These plans must also include the measures necessary to reopen establishments safely.
When establishments remain open, and to ensure that children and their families are constantly protected and informed, the guidelines call for:
- Provide children with information on the means available to them to protect themselves;
- Promote best practices in handwashing and hygiene and make hygiene products available;
- Wash and disinfect school buildings, especially water supply, and sanitation facilities; and
- Increase air circulation and ventilation.The guidelines, although specially adapted for countries that have already confirmed cases of transmission of COVID-19, are nevertheless relevant in all other contexts. Education can encourage children to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in schools and in communities through discussions with classmates on how to prevent the spread of the virus. Preserving the safe operation of schools or reopening them after a closed period requires taking into account a large number of elements which, if properly implemented, can promote public health.
For example, the School Protection Guidelines, applied in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic between 2014 and 2016, have helped to prevent transmission of the disease in schools.
UNICEF calls on schools, whether open or helping students through distance education, to provide maximum support to students. Schools should provide children with vital information about handwashing and other measures that will help them protect themselves and their families; provide mental health support; and help avoid stigma and discrimination. To do this, they should encourage students to be kind to one another and to avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
These new guidelines also provide helpful tips and checklists for parents and caregivers, as well as for the children and students themselves. They include in particular the following actions:
- Monitor children’s health and do not send them to class in the event of illness;
- Encourage children to ask questions and express concerns; and
- Cough or blow your nose in a handkerchief or elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth, and nose.