THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS: AN OPPORTUNITY AND CHALLENGE (PART THREE): THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS/GUARDIANS

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The thrust this third article of the series centered the opportunity and responsibilities of the various stakeholders (the government and its internal partners, the managers of schools, parents/guardians, and the community) ensuring that our schools are reopened in a safe and conducive environment is on the responsibility of the parents/guardians. How may they play a key role in making the dream come true of seeing our children back to school free of Ebola? What are their specific roles and tasks? Let us explore a bit below. The second article on the role and responsibility of school administrators noted the following points:

In addition to the government and its international partners the schools and all learning institutions themselves have a particular responsibility to the students and parents to ensure that the regulations for keeping their institutions safe are observed at all times. They need to make sure that they have the protocols, understand them and help each of their teachers/lecturers have and understand them well. It is no use for schools to have the protocols if teachers/lecturers do not have access to and thus do not know what the protocols are that they are expected to help implement.

The institutions are to have workshops with all of their staff (administrators, faculty and support personnel) in order to help them understand and become active participants of the new regime of health and safety in addition to the regular academic requirements. This means among many things, all learning institutions have accurate contacts of all their personnel and the parents/guardians of all students to be made use of in case of any emergencies.

Also schools and learning institutions must make it mandatory for at least a parent or guardian of each student to come to the first Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting so that both parties are aware of their responsibilities and roles of complying with the protocols. Attendance to this meeting must be a precondition to accepting and keeping a student in a school or learning institution.

Further, all learning institutions are to ensure that they have adequate water, thermometer and chlorine/clorax/soap supplies for frequent hand washings and temperature checks of students, school personnel and all visitors (parents/guardians or their representatives and others). For this they will need the help of our government and its partners and the communities. In short this will mean each school/learning institution having a strong and vibrant health and safety committee to promote good hygiene practices beyond Ebola and realizing that the safety of its environment lies, in large measure, in its own hands.

The parents/guardians also have their equally important responsibility for the safety of the schools their children attend. One of their primary responsibilities is to make sure that their children are well in health as far as they are able to know. They must look out for any signs of illness such as any prolong high fevers (more than 10 minutes), unnecessary loss of appetite, unusual quietness, and exhibition of any unusual behavior in the child. If any of these signs and others are shown they must keep their child at home or take him/her to a health facility for a medical checkup.

It is the responsibility of the parents/guardians to teach their child to eat safely at school and home by setting positive examples of food hygiene at home and when they take him/her out to eat. They must show him/her where it is safe to get food and handle food safely.

They ought to inculcate in their child frequent hand washings, temperature checks and avoiding physical contacts especially with uncovered parts of the body such as hands and faces. The child must be taught to avoid plays that involve a lot of sweating and touching others. Parents/guardians have to judge whether it is safe for them to send their little children to a daycare or kindergarten school where a whole lot of physical contacts with the child and other children will be required.

If they judge it not safe they may have to wait for a semester or a year before they send them away from home for a longer period. If the parents/guardians play their roles well they make it easy for the schools and the government to operate schools in this Ebola situation.

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