Covid-19: UNICEF makes available guidance to protect children and support safe school operations

Guidance includes practical actions and checklists for administrators, teachers, parents and children

15 July 2020
Child wearing a mask and raising hand in class room
UNICEF

Download the joint guidance on protecting children and schools from COVID-19: https://uni.cf/33hxaSd


BISSAU, 15 July 2020 – UNICEF has made available, this Wednesday, through the Ministry of Education, guidance to protect children and support safe school operations. The document has been issued by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The guidance provides critical considerations and practical checklists to keep schools safe. It also advises national and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency plans for educational facilities.

Considering the current closure of schools across the country, the guidelines include recommendations to mitigate the possible negative impacts on the learning and well-being of children and adolescents. This means having solid plans to ensure continuity of learning, including distance education options - via the Internet, radio and / or television - and access to essential services for all children. These plans must also include the necessary steps for the eventual safe reopening of schools.

In order to contribute to the assessment of the necessary conditions for the safe reopening of schools, ensuring that children and their families remain protected and informed, the document calls for:

  • Providing children with information about how to protect themselves;
  • Promoting best handwashing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies;
  • Cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities; and
  • Increasing airflow and ventilation.

The guidance, while specific to countries that have already confirmed the transmission of COVID-19, is still relevant in all other contexts. Education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in school, and in their community by talking to others about how to prevent the spread of viruses. Maintaining safe school operations or reopening schools after a closure, requires many considerations, but if done well, can promote public health.

For example, safe school guidelines implemented in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during the outbreak of Ebola virus disease from 2014 to 2016 helped prevent school-based transmissions of the virus.

UNICEF is urging schools – whether open or helping students through remote learning – to provide students with holistic support. Schools should provide children with vital information on handwashing and other measures to protect themselves and their families; facilitate mental health support; and help to prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be kind to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.

The new guidance also offers helpful tips and checklists for parents and caregivers, as well as children and students themselves. These actions include:

  • Monitoring children’s health and keeping them home from school if they are ill;
  • Encouraging children to ask questions and express their concerns; and
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and avoid touching your face, eyes, mouth and nose.

Media Contacts

Wilson Gama
Communication Officer
UNICEF Guinea-Bissau
Tel: +245 95 579 79 53

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