COVID-19 SOPs for Reopening Schools in Pakistan

The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was recorded rising in Sindh province since Feb 2020. As a result, the Government of Sindh closed schools on February 27, 2020 to ensure students’ well-being. Although some school systems started offering online/e-learning education to their students, the majority of students have not yet benefitted from an alternative source of learning. Since children are our human capital and future of the nation, we must use alternative ways to offer education to them in order to continue their learning until schools are officially re-opened. There is an urgent need for all educators to get ready to re-open schools, for which school systems need contextually-relevant SOPs for their effective operation in order to make schools safe learning places for students, teachers, and others. The school systems need to develop students as responsible citizens to learn how to create safe and caring environment for them and others which will also diminish their fears and anxieties and increase their level of confidence and resilience.

The Steering Committee of School Education & Literacy Department, Government of Sindh, Karachi in its meeting held on June 2, 2020 decided to constitute a Sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of the Secretary, to prepare SOPs for re-opening of schools, annual academic plan and promotion policy for class IV-VIII. The School Education & Literacy Department, Government of Sindh notified vide its notification SO(A&T)SELD.D/9(3)/2020 dated June 4, 2020. M/S Jameel Yusuf and Asif Abrar
shared with the members their draft SOPs. Both drafts of SOPs were reviewed and revised SOPs was prepared as one document by Dr. Muhammad Memon and was subsequently shared with the members.

On 27th June’20, Mr. Jameel Yusuf, Dr. Shehzad Jeeva and myself further deliberated on the draft document and finalized the following for implementation in light of the existing ground realities of schools across the country, so as to ensure the re-opening of the schools at the earliest in a safe environment.

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1.0 Home and Health Department, GOS.

1.1. Immediately announce tentative date for re-opening of schools, so as to initiate the timely readiness of school systems to operate during the post-COVID-19.
1.2. Make necessary arrangements including weekly disinfection of schools and their premises on weekends, to keep schools as safe learning places.
1.3. Ensure availability of water, soap, spare masks, sanitizer or mobile hand wash and functioning of toilets with adequate facilities in schools.
1.4. Approve SOPs for operating schools during the post- COVID-19, as proposed herein.
1.5. Ensure strict compliance of SOPs. In case of non-compliance, an administrative action may be taken against the schools.
1.6. Ensure flexible operational/academic plan and its delivery.
1.7. Encourage school systems to simultaneously offer online education during COVID19, to help reduce daily attendance.
1.8. Schools systems to use online education for those students who remain absent from schools due to their illness in order to continue their learning.
1.9. Ensure teachers’ continuous professional development for improving their professional knowledge and skills and preparing them for also offering online education.
1.10. Garner parents’ support to send their children to schools.
1.11. Use media to highlight importance of mandatory payment of fees to ensure continuity of learning during post- COVID-19.

2.0 School Management

2.1 Regularly clean and disinfect school buildings, classrooms and especially water and sanitation facilities, as required 24/7.
2.2 Use recommended and approved materials for disinfecting the premises.
2.3 Adjust school days and timings in a way to avoid any large gathering of students in the classrooms.
2.4 Stagger classes to avoid mingling of students.
2.5 Adjust academic calendar/syllabus to complete within a given time.
2.6 Split students of Pre-Primary (Nursery / KG), Primary, Lower Secondary, Secondary and Upper Secondary) in number of shifts to accommodate sufficient distance amongst students.
2.7 Assign teachers as per adjusted days, timings and shifts of schools.
2.8 Avoid large number of teachers in the staff rooms, at any given time etc.
2.9 Use Saturday as a working day till the pandemic is over.
2.10 Students and others will enter through a disinfectant gate. (funds and space permitting)
2.11 Upon entering the school through a disinfectant gate wherever possible, have the body temperature checked through a temperature gun. In case the temperature is above the normal level (97.7 – 99.5 °F), the entry of the child / staff member / visitor must be denied.
2.12 Students, teachers and others with temperature will not be allowed to enter the schools at all times.
2.13 Ensure that students with temperature etc. immediately return home; hence, parents must wait for their children to get screened. This must be communicated to the van drivers not to leave the school vicinity until all students have entered the school disinfectant gate.
2.14 Wearing face mask is mandatory for all during the school timings.
2.15 Ensure that entire school premises is disinfected every weekend on Saturday.
2.16 Regular cleaning of the classrooms, especially, desks, chairs, cupboards, fans etc.
2.17 Ensure that toilets and other common areas are thoroughly cleaned at regular intervals in a day.
2.18 Covered trash bins must be placed inside the classrooms and common areas.
2.19 Display rules and procedures for the students on soft boards in the corridors.
2.20 Schools’ tuck shops will not be allowed to sell edible items. It will be mandatory for the students to bring homemade lunch and water bottles.
2.21 The vendors selling food items outside the school premises must be removed with the help of Police Station / DCs concerned.
2.22 Classrooms, labs, libraries and offices should be well ventilated by using natural ventilation (opening windows) and by keeping the doors open at all times during the school timings.
2.23 A floor map with movement plan must be prepared to ensure smooth movement of students at all times to avoid gathering of students at one place. Morning assembly must be held in the respective Class Room.
2.24 Promote and demonstrate regular hand washing and positive hygiene behaviors and monitor their practices.
2.25 Ensure adequate, clean toilets for students and teachers.
2.26 Ensure soap and safe water is available at all appropriate hand washing stations or install portable disinfecting hand wash.
2.27 Place hand wash / sanitizers in halls, and near exits where ever possible, especially staff rooms / reception area.
2.28 Increase an air flow and ventilation where climate allows (open windows).
2.29 Ensure trash bins are removed daily and disposed off safely.
2.30 Students will not be allowed to share their belongings with each other, including the stationery items, books, water bottles, lunch etc. Therefore, students must bring all their required items each day.
2.31 Students be coached to assist the management to make the schools safe working/learning places for everyone.
2.32 Monitor measures taken by school system to provide safety of students.
2.33 Encourage community/parents to cooperate with school management regarding flexible operational/academic plans, students’ attendance etc.
2.34 Ensure strict compliance of SOPs to make schools as safe learning places.
2.35 Monitor functioning of help-desk for students and parents in the schools.

3.0 Teachers

3.1 Ensure that teachers are ready to cope with the complex situation of COVID-19 and teach effectively.
3.2 Ensure teachers move away from their traditional role to non-traditional role as facilitators of students learning.
3.3 Use variety of pedagogies and assessment practices.
3.4 Ensure teachers are developed to offer online education to students.
3.5 Ensure all students have put on their face masks.
3.6 Ensure classroom furniture is properly placed with adequate distance.
3.7 Make sure to listen to students’ concerns and answer to their questions.
3.8 Ensure social distancing among students and teachers.
3.9 Teach the students to cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with the elbow, followed by washing of hands.
3.10 Encourage students to prevent and address stigma associated with COVID-19, as it is like any other illness.
3.11 Encourage students to express and communicate their feelings.
3.12 Incorporate relevant health education messages into teaching learning process.
3.13 Students with symptoms of fever etc. identified later in class be sent home immediately.
3.14 Monitor students’ frequent washing their hands in order to keep environment safe.
3.15 Encourage students to keep themselves safe.
3.16 Remind students that they can model healthy behaviors even at home for their families

4.0 Students

4.1 Ask questions, educate yourself and get information from the reliable sources to protect yourself and others.
4.2 Wear face mask during travel and schooling at all times.
4.3 Wash your hands frequently, always with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
4.4 Remember not to touch your face.
4.5 Do not share cups, eating utensils, food or drinks with others.
4.6 Be a leader in keeping yourself, your school, family and the community healthy.
4.7 Share what you learn about preventing disease with your family and friends, especially with younger children / class mates, in morning assembly presentations in class.
4.8 Don’t stigmatize your peers or tease anyone about being sick.
4.9 Tell your parents, another family member, or a caregiver if you feel sick, and ask to stay home.
4.10 Cover coughs and sneezes with the elbow and washing hands frequently.
4.11 Practice washing your hands often with soap.
4.12 Develop habit of frequent/timely hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and water.
4.13 Encourage schools to offer online education by using low technology to those students who remain absent during their sickness for continuity of learning.
4.14 Encourage schools to use continuous assessment for providing immediate feedback to students for improving their learning and monitoring their progress.

5.0 Parents

5.1 If your child is sick, keep him/her home and notify the school of your child’s absence and symptoms. Request reading and assignments so that students can continue learning while at home.
5.2 Explain to your child what is happening in simple words and reassure them that they are safe.
5.3 The parents being the primary caregivers must ensure that their children are taking the necessary precautions to save themselves from COVID-19 and its spread.
5.4 Parents are advised not to send their children to schools in case they display any symptom of COVID-19 which include fever, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath.
5.5 Children showing high body temperature/fever and other symptoms be immediately sent back to their homes.
5.6 Inculcate habit among children of cleaning hands more often than usual- wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap or with disinfected water, thoroughly ensuring that all parts of the hands are covered.
5.7 Ensuring good hygiene, which requires covering the mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue for cough or sneeze, also disposing off the used tissue immediately in a closed bin of each class.
5.8 Encourage your child to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throwing away the tissue into a closed bin, and not touching their eyes, mouths or noses if they haven’t properly washed their hands.
5.9 Help children cope with the stress.
5.10 Children may respond to stress in different ways and address them carefully.
5.11 Common responses include having difficulties sleeping, bedwetting, having pain in the stomach or head, and being anxious, withdrawn, angry, clingy or afraid to be left alone.
5.12 Respond to children’s reactions in a supportive way and explain to them that they are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
5.13 Listen to their concerns and take time to comfort them and give them affection, reassure them they’re safe and praise them frequently.
5.14 Monitor your children’s health and keep them home from school if they are ill.
5.15 Model good hygiene practices for your children.
5.16 Wash your hands with soap and water, whenever the hands are visibly dirty.
5.17 Encourage your children to ask questions and express their feelings with you and their teachers. Remember that your child may have different reactions to stress; be patient and understanding. Prevent stigma by using facts and reminding students to be
considerate of one another.
5.18 Parents will be responsible to ensure the safe transportation of their children to school.

6.0 School Management Committee/Parent-Teacher Association

6.1 Ensure provision and implementation of safe environment in schools, as being proposed.
6.2 Monitor measures taken by school system to provide safety of students.
6.3 Encourage community/parents to cooperate with school management regarding flexible operational/academic plans, students’ attendance, timely payment of fees, etc., to inculcate a friendly and facilitating environment.
6.4 Ensure strict compliance of SOPs to make schools as safe learning places.
6.5 Ensure satisfactory functioning of helpline / desk for students and parents in the schools.
6.6 Encourage schools to offer online education by using low technology to those students who remain absent during their sickness for continuity of learning.
6.7 Encourage schools to use home assignments for students to cover-up syllabus.
6.8 Encourage schools to use continuous assessment for proving immediate feedback to students for improving their learning.

7.0 Transport

7.1 All parents/ van drivers must strictly follow the route map shared by the schools and also drop the children and pick them using only the gate designated to them. This must be done to avoid gathering of individuals at any gate and must be strictly adhere to it.
7.2 The van / vehicle is thoroughly cleaned / disinfected at the end of each shift/day.
7.3 The van driver must not work if he or a member of his household are carrying any symptoms of COVID-19.
7.4 The van drivers must ensure that all the students / staff, including himself are wearing masks before boarding the School Van and are not sitting next to him (driver) and that the van/vehicle is not over crowded.
7.5 The van drivers must wait near the school vicinity for a reasonable time, so that all students may get screened for body temperature at the school gate to allow entry in the school.
7.6 The van driver must leave only after all students are through so that no child is left outside the gate in case of fever. In case a child is identified with increased body temperature, the van driver will immediately take child back to home.
7.7 Students living nearby are encouraged to either walk with an adult or cycle to school.


While preparing the above SOPs the reviewer has benefited from UNICEF document titled ‘Key Messages & Actions for COVID-19 Prevention & Control in Schools’, March 2020 shared by Mr. Asif Abrar and the draft prepared and presented for discussion by Mr. Jameel Yusuf, which was reviewed / condensed and then shared with the other

Extensive consultations was carried out with Mr. Jameel Yusuf and Dr. Shehzad Jeeva on June 27, 2020, keeping into consideration the subsequent draft “Sindh Guide for Safe School Reopening” developed by UNICEF Sindh, dated June 20, 2020 to help finalize this standard document “Post Covid-19, SOPs for Operating Schools”, for implementation across the Nation.

Dr. Muhammad Memon

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