As the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) gears up to reopen schools in the city, it is training its teachers under a new scheme, Safe Shala, based on the recommendations approved by the community medicine department of Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital, also known as Sion hospital. The recommendations, running into 70 pages, are prepared by a team of Class 11 students from Singapore International School, Mumbai, for safety of students, once the state government gives directives to restart schools amid the pandemic.
Since October 17, Sion hospital has started to train some teachers to sensitise them about the safety guidelines. As per the education department, 144 teachers from civic schools will be given training as master trainers who will be responsible to train other staffers from their schools. “Our community medicine department has taken the initiative. We have already started training civic teachers. We will also send these recommendations to private schools, but we are yet to decide if we will make it compulsory for private teachers to attend the workshops,” said Dr Mohan Joshi, dean, Sion hospital.
The documents available with HT list out several recommendations, including checking health status of school bus drivers before staring pickups; screening children for symptoms before sending them to schools; cleaning restrooms every three-four hours, disinfecting classrooms and commonly touched surfaces such as lift, microphones.
In case of secondary students, schools have to form a committee on public health; social studies should focus on the history of pandemics and vaccines; develop good health behaviours like social distancing; increase ventilation in classrooms where AC is not recommended; start staggered canteen timings for hostels; change in menu in hostel canteens to ensure raw and food from outside isn’t served.
The letter written by Dr Seema S Bansode- Gokhe, head of the department of community medicine, Sion hospital, states: “We have found that Shivak (Master Shivak Menon) and his team have diligently followed the guidelines of the WHO, government of India and ICMR while preparing the manual. It is recommended to all government and non-government schools may be interested to use it…”
“These rules will be implemented in all civic-run schools. We have sent requests to private schools so if they want, they can participate in the workshops,” said Suresh Kakani, additional commissioner, BMC. “This is the first set of guidelines for schools but there might be additional changes, once we take the final decision of opening up schools,” Joshi added.
Arundhati Chavan, president of the Parents Teachers Association, said more than private schools, the civic and government-run schools will struggle more in implementing the rules. “Private schools have budgetary provisions, so they can implement the rules with proper sanitation. What about civic-run schools? There is a need for separate guidelines for such schools,” she said.
In the city, 13,285 children below 19 years have been infected with Covid-19. Of these, 45 have succumbed to the infection. “Due to better immunity, children are less vulnerable to acquiring the infection. But we have to be careful,” said Dr Sanjay Pattiwar, public health expert, adding, “Firstly, the state has to be patient before deciding on opening up schools. Secondly, we need strict guidelines to be followed in schools.”