Headteacher spearheads COVID-19 fight to keep students safe
Teaching students how to prevent COVID-19
It’s break-time at Rapogi Girl’s Secondary School. The faces of students are filled with joy, comfortable knowing they are protected from coronavirus. Wearing their masks, the girls’ laughter fills the air as wash their hands, a ritual they regularly perform to keep themselves safe from the virus.
Here in Migori County, western Kenya, headteacher, Rose Lomo, leads an institution that is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.
Lomo is determined to provide quality education to her students. She is also striving to make her school a safe environment, free of coronavirus for students and teachers alike.
She recalls how in 2020 the outbreak of COVID-19 first impacted the school. “I did not know the severity of the virus until our chairperson died from complications related to the virus,” says Lomo.
“He was isolated from the rest of his family when he started having trouble breathing. Unfortunately, he passed away two weeks later. It was a huge blow to us because he was instrumental in developing our school.”
“After his death, it dawned on me that COVID-19 was indeed a serious infection. So I decided to implement infection control strategies to counter the spread of the virus,” Lomo says.
Lomo’s school now adheres to COVID-19 prevention protocols as recommended by the government. For example, she has established soap and water handwashing facilities in the school grounds to ensure both students and teachers maintain proper hand hygiene.
She has also encouraged students to fit their face masks properly, covering their noses and mouths. During class time, students maintain social distancing protocols, which Loma believes has also helped keep the virus under control.
At the same time, Lomo tells students and their families about the importance of vaccination against COVID-19. She regularly invites workers from a nearby health facility to visit the school and vaccinate students. All the eligible students have now completed the recommended COVID-19 vaccination schedules.
During immunization clinics in her school, Lomo also encourages parents to get vaccinated. She uses the opportunity to dispel myths and misconceptions held by some, causing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy throughout the community.
“Initially, many parents were against the vaccine, claiming it was unsafe. They also discouraged their children from getting vaccinated. But I assured them the vaccine had been tested and proved safe for everyone, including expectant and breastfeeding mothers.”
Loma is now recognized as a champion in the fight against COVID-19 in the local community. As an influencer and agent of change, she has led by example and has been fully vaccinated herself. She even received a booster jab.
Stacie Nekesa, 17, a student at the school, shares her experience after contracting COVID-19.
“When the government closed all schools, I went home. After a while, I developed flu-like symptoms which were very intense. I did not recover quickly,” says Nekesa.
“When schools re-opened, I was still coughing. Some health workers were screening all the students. My temperature turned out too high.”
Nekesa says Loma encouraged her to get tested for COVID-19 before inviting the student to her house. “She supported me until I got well and was able to join my fellow students.”
In Kenya, COVID-19 outbreaks continue to come and go, and infection rates remain a concern. So far, 37 percent of adults and 10 percent of teenagers have been fully vaccinated.
UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health (MOH) to curb the spread of the virus. To support the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination, UNICEF is procuring COVID-19 vaccines and ensuring that they reach various health facilities.
UNICEF has also provided MOH with additional refrigerators for COVID-19 vaccine storage in health facilities and trained health workers on the different COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine handling, storage, and administration.