Schools reopening protocols
Interview with Xavier Lamarre, Director of Enko Services
- Are all the Enko schools open?
We are facing an unprecedented situation at a global level. The number of children suddenly out of school is higher today than during any previous global crisis throughout the last centuries. As of July, UNESCO estimates that 60% of the world’s students (against 90% in April), representing one billion learners, are still affected by school closures. More than 180 countries shut school doors nationwide, while others implemented localized school closures.
The African continent has not been exempt, 54 countries temporarily closed their educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with the national government requirements in each of the 9 countries Enko Education operates, all Enko schools have been temporarily closed at least once since the beginning of the pandemic in March.
Our schools in Mozambique haven’t open yet and should reopen in October, schools in South Africa and Zambia are partially open (only some classes are open) and Botswana should reopen before September.Our seven schools located in West and Central Africa (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso) partially reopened in May-June to accommodate exam classes and are now closed for the July-August yearly school break.
- What have you implemented for the reopening of schools?
Enko Education considers the security of our students, parents and staff a vital issue. Our mission on the continent to increase student access to the world’s best universities is directly dependent on our ability to provide a safe learning environment for our school community. This is why Enko schools only reopen when it is as safe as possible for students and staff.
While ensuring 100% safety by eliminating all risks is unrealistic, it is possible to significantly reduce the health risk by implementing strict health & safety plans. Since the COVID-19 situation varies over countries and over time, it requires the implementation of group-wide measures applicable to all schools and local measures tailored to the unique context of each particular school.
We have designed, based on advice from local and international experts, a School Reopening Protocol that is strictly applied in every Enko school. This is to ensure the highest level of safety in our schools without compromising the continuity of our educational mission.
- What COVID-19 protection measures are being taken at schools?
The School Reopening Protocol includes a hundred measures to be implemented before and after school reopening. Among the main measures, all students, staff, contractors and visitors are asked to wear a face mask at any time within the school premises. When entering and exiting the school, they are all requested to register, to sanitize/wash their hands, and their body temperature is systematically checked through infra-red thermometers. A physical distance of 1 meter is maintained across inside and outside school buildings, at all times. Classroom set-up is arranged to ensure a one meter minimum distance between every student desk and standard class size is reduced. An isolation room has been set-up in each school to separate anyone who exhibits COVID-19 like symptoms until they can access medical care. Signs are posted in highly visible locations to promote everyday protective measures such as covering coughs and sneezes. The whole school is sanitized twice a day, including workstations, table-tops, chairs, door-handles, kitchen and toilets. Start, finish, and break times are staggered to avoid gathering within the playground and at school gates.
Going back to school will definitely look and feel different to what students were used to before, and we don’t see a return to the ‘old normal’ in the foreseeable future. Being away from school and returning to an environment that has changed can be anxiety-provoking for children. That’s why, together with parents, we are completely committed to making the children’s transition back to school as easy as possible.
- How do Enko parents feel about their children going back to school? (before/after schools reopening if the school has reopened)
Parents are very understanding of the schools’ efforts to limit the propagation of COVID-19 and we would like to thank them for their constant and remarkable support. They recognize that they have a key role to play in protecting the health and safety of our children. We always remind them that security should be viewed as a chain, each member of the school community is a link of that security chain and the solidity of that chain relies on the weakest link. If one member doesn’t strictly apply the protocol within the school, he or she contributes to weakening the security system.
Students who experience any of the COVID-19 linked symptoms (fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, body temperature above 37.4°C) over the past 14 days, need to stay at home and be checked by a doctor before reintegrating into school.
Additionally, we pay particular attention to our students and staff well-being. We are very aware that the whole COVID-19 situation and applied measures can provoke anxiety, stress, and distress among them. This is why all our staff members are sensitized to watch out for any signal and report it to the school leadership so we can provide psychosocial support as needed.
- How do you make sure the schools are respecting the hygiene standards and measures to fight against the Covid-19?
First, we ensure that each applied measure of the protocol is supported by tangible evidence. Secondly, we make sure that the School Reopening Protocol is widely shared among the community. This allows any member of the community including parents to report any breach in its application. Finally, the Enko Central team is running regular audits to control the application of the School Reopening Protocol.
School staff have been very diligent in ensuring the strict application of the School Reopening Protocol until now and we want to congratulate them for the outstanding dedication and impressive sense of responsibility they demonstrated over the past 4 months to guarantee as safe a learning environment as possible..
Interview with Benjamin Green, Head at Enko Botho
Enko Botho in Gaborone, Botswana has been open for students since early June – what procedure was followed?
We successfully reopened after inspection by Gaborone City Council confirmed we were able to implement the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Basic Education and the Department of Health and Wellness. We have installed extra handwashing facilities and sanitizer stations across the school, take staff and student temperatures 3 times per day and ensure the whole community is sensitized to ongoing risk to them from COVID-19.
How has the student experience been?
Initially, it was difficult for students to relax and enjoy the school experience because the rules perhaps inhibited them, however, teachers soon adapted their methods so that group working and collaboration could still happen – just with 1-meter distance at all times. Sports and music have changed but students are enjoying new ways of working as a result and of course Science practical work and ICT studies can carry on as before. All our students have cooperated and understand the important role they play in keeping their friends and family safe.
How have you managed the students who have not been able to return physically to school?
We have kept our Google Classrooms open and post all assignments and learning materials to the platform and we are proud that not one day of school learning has been missed. We are constantly prepared in case of a further lockdown so our staff and students can move fully online if needed. We have noticed our student’s ICT confidence has grown and our staff have developed lots of new skills in the digital space. Zoom lessons, youtube films made at home and online submission and assessment are now just the way we do things.
Are Enko Botho parents happy with the precautions the school has taken?
We have been completely transparent with our procedures from the start and have built on the good communication links we have. Parents and families are able to raise any issue or concern with the school quickly and know that it will be addressed promptly and effectively, they are confident they will receive feedback from the school about results. Every student has returned to school so we take this as an endorsement of the quality care we take to make sure school is as safe as possible for students, staff, and the wider school community.