Safety tips for ‘back to school’ – Hygiene guide for staying safe from COVID-19

Going back to school after a break is always such a ritual with students. There’s the excitement of new books and stationery if it is the start of term or new experiences and projects to share with friends when coming back from a summer or winter break. But the experience of going ‘Back to School’ this year and the next comes with other considerations.

In my teaching career of over three decades, especially since I work at Government schools, educating my students on hygiene practices has been a critical area of focus. But since 2020, we have had to bring parents into the consideration and information dissemination fold. Apart from ensuring that children have polished shoes, tidy uniforms, we are now advising them on essential disinfection products that children should carry with them and routines that are necessary to adhere to when at school.

“Despite being less affected than any other age group, emerging data suggest that children and young people’s health may be more directly impacted by COVID-19 than originally anticipated when the crisis began in late 2019” – states UNICEF in one of its reports. Long after the virus itself has been eradicated, this age group is going to withstand most of the crisis in terms of – education, nutrition etc. Considering this grim prediction, we should not be ignorant of the basic hygiene that needs to be cultivated in our kids.

So here are some ‘must-dos’ to maintain while sending your child to school for their own safety and for the protection of everyone else they interact with. After all – ‘Hygiene Sahi, Toh Health Sahi’.

Practising physical distancing

Following stringent physical distancing can conflict with ideal academic standards. While schools continue to put ground rules to maintain physical distancing in accordance with protocols established by State governments and local authorities, it is important to inculcate physical distancing habits amongst children as well. Some ways to encourage physical distancing during school hours can include:

· Urging students to not gather and socialize in large groups during intervals or while leaving school grounds

· Following designated entrances, exits and floor marking that has been put in place to direct foot-traffic flows can help students and staff maintain distance

· Avoid sharing meals or cutlery used for tiffins and water bottles

Make N95/FFP2 masks a necessity

It is not just about the lunchboxes, books, and water bottles anymore. Make sure your child remembers to wear a proper mask to school. We advise our students to opt for certified and advanced protection masks such as the BIS certified FFP2 S Masks for optimal protection. Cloth masks are not adequate to serve this purpose. We also recommend students carry a spare mask in the school bag in case the one in use gets misplaced or dirty at some point during the school day.

Inculcate the important message of regular handwashing

You should ensure that your kid cleans his/her hands frequently. Such practice can be emphasized only when parents set routines for handwashing at home. Children impersonate what their parents do. Knowing that kids indulge in various outdoor activities at school, there has to be an understanding to also use sanitisers. Be it before eating food or after playing games, your kid should use a sanitiser to avoid any transfer of disease. Innovative pen-style sanitisers are available in the market that can draw added interest from children. It can be carried in a stationary box or in pockets on the uniform so that it is readily accessible.

Cleaning & Disinfecting

Regardless of whether your child is being schooled at home or at school, cleaning and sanitizing regularly contacted surfaces can help with decreasing the risk of infections. This incorporates frequently touched items like door handles, fixtures, laptop or desktop keyboards, tablets, and mobile phones. Apart from this, with the winter-monsoon transition, students can also carry wipes like the Savlon Germ Protection Wipes to wipe out dust and germs from skin or surfaces, whether indoors or outdoors.

To make schools cleaner, safer spaces, I encourage children with a higher uptake on hygiene habits to talk to their friends about the merits of maintaining such habits. That is the best way to get children to learn – from each other.

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