The envisaged reopening of schools places a huge responsibility on all stakeholders, including learners, to ensure Covid-19 does not spread.
Any laxity in observing rules and regulations will see schools hit by infections having to close rapidly and learners getting even further behind.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has come up with a roadmap for the reopening of schools, starting with examination classes.
The priority for now being the writing of June examinations.
The schools opening is expected to start with examination classes under phase one, which considers Form Fours, Form Sixes and Grade Sevens.
The gradual roll-out will see phase two taking in those classes writing their examinations next year, with phase three having the rest of high school learners, with Grades Three, Four and Five returning to primary schools.
Lower primary school classes will also return to school under phase three, with phase four taking in Grade One and Two learners.
The return to school by learners will obviously require that all systems are up to scratch to ensure there is no spread of Covid-19.
This means schools must start putting logistics in place so that when they are allowed to take in learners, the risk of infection would have been minimised.
This will call upon Government to inspect the schools, and only those that are prepared to avoid the spreading of Covid-19 being allowed to reopen.
In their planning, schools should have a number of issues they should look at, including carrying out awareness programmes among teachers and learners, in addition to setting strict rules and regulations on how they will observe Covid-19 requirements.
Meeting all health and safety compliance checks should be a prerequisite for a school to reopen. The other important aspect that schools must deal with is how learners will maintain social distancing at school premises.
This calls for measures like organising the pupils into small classes, while increasing the space between desks, and using all space on the school premises.
In the initial stages an examination class could easily be split between two classrooms since so many will still be at home.
The other challenge schools are likely to face is on the interaction of learners outdoors, which calls for staggered morning and afternoon breaks to ensure as few of them as possible are out in the school grounds at a time.
The schools should just scrap the usual gatherings at the assembly point, while discouraging unnecessary movements at the school premises, with numbers visiting the ablution facilities being limited.
Disinfection of all places the learners use should be the watch word for the schools.
Another headache likely to confront schools is on how the pupils will be transported, especially on the use of school buses which are often crowded.
Limiting the numbers on the bus means carrying out several trips which the schools might end up failing to afford because of the costs of fuel.
Asking parents with vehicles to bring their children to school could be an option to reduce the numbers on the school bus.
Schools usually host visitors of all sorts, including parents and suppliers, and all these should be stopped from coming, except, of course, for parents dropping and picking up their children.
But is it not only the schools that bear the responsibility to ensure that Covid-19 does not spread among the learners.
Parents too have a big role to play mainly because they are the first to know if their children have any form of illness or Covid-19 symptoms.
The parents should be honourable enough to withdraw their children from school once they suspect Covid-19 symptoms, as the first line of defence for other learners.
There should be no interaction among the parents when dropping off their children at school to avoid close contact.
Teachers, who spend most the day with learners at school, also need to take their responsibilities of halting the spread of Covid-19 among learners seriously.
They have to ensure the learners are monitored every time to ensure they do not violate the regulations on how they should behave on the school premises.
The teachers should take it upon themselves to teach the learners basic hygiene that helps them stay safe, in addition to ensuring the general hygienic conditions for the whole school.
Learners should be discouraged from sharing stationery, while equipment brought from home should be disinfected.
At the same time, schools should ensure they have enough sanitisers, personal protective equipment and scanners to constantly check on students’ temperatures.
Above all these measures, schools should continuously emphasise good hygiene, washing of hands with soap under running water, social distancing and wearing of masks .
They should discourage their learners from touching their mouths, noses and eyes, and constantly monitor temperatures of the pupils, in addition to encouraging them on general hygiene.
We believe that if schools follow the above outlined conditions, there can be a reopening of schools, but done in safety.
Covid-19 has resulted in the closure of many schools throughout the world, with the United Nations estimating more than 849 children and youth from pre-primary to higher education have been affected.
But many governments are now considering relaxing the Covid-19 measures on the education sector under strict observance of rules and regulations that help stop the spread of Covid-19.