Preparing schools to tackle coronavirus
Monday, March 9th, 2020
Winstone Chiseremi and Noven Owiti
Schools management have been urged to be proactive in preparing their institutions for the outbreak of the coronavirus even as they wait for the ministries of Health and Education to give direction on tackling the threat.
With the rapid rise of coronavirus cases globally, several schools in the US and UK are considering closing to prevent the spread of the virus.
Japan, Iran, Italy, Iraq and North Korea, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Armenia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates have all shut down schools as cases worldwide reach nearly 100,000.
Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) Chief Executive Officer Wilson Aruasa says even though there have been no confirmed case in Kenya, it is wise to prepare to deal with any outbreak.
“The first thing is that learners should always wash their hands with soap after school, avoid touching their faces, mouths and eyes with unclean hands,” he says.
Aruasa said it is important learners and adults observe high standards of hygiene at home and in public places for their safety in the face of coronavirus outbreak globally.
“Besides, children should drink hot water as part of precaution measures to counter the disease,” he says.
According to Homa Bay county Health minister Prof Richard Muga, schools should by now be enforcing proper sanitation, focusing on personal hygiene.
He warns head teachers that they risk lagging behind on educating learners on the symptoms of the virus as part of awareness campaign.
Schools must also be prompt in reporting cases of students exhibiting strange symptoms.
“The institutions are advised to observe high standards of hygiene in the wake of the deadly virus scare.
Children should be taught proper hygiene principles particularly touching each other,” Prof Muga told Scholar.
The minister said administrators of institutions should ensure students don’t sneeze without covering their mouths with handkerchiefs and shaking hands must from now on be discouraged.
“If we follow these simple tricks, then we are sure of keeping away the virus from spreadinging,” he added.
A surveillance team has been established in Homa Bay county to enable immediate sharing of information on the virus.
“As a county, we have embarked on sensitisation programme on the virus targeting the general public as a mitigation measure to deal with possible outbreak,” Muga said.
In North Rift, the county government of Uasin Gishu county has set in motion preparations for public and private learning institutions region on how to deal with a possible outbreak of the pandemic.
This is aimed at empowering learners on how to observe preventative measures in their homes and schools as the virus continues to cause panic worldwide.
The move comes in wake of a massive rollout training programme targeting staff from MTRH, neighbouring counties and private hospitals as part of preparedness on how to handle any eruption of the ailment.
Already, MTRH has formed a 24-member multi-disciplinary task force in preparations to deal with the virus.
CEO Aruasa says the multi-agency team headed by Dr Simiyu Tabu (head of emergency services at the hospital) will complement the work of a national task force formed recently by President Uhuru Kenyatta to deal with possible outbreaks.
Addressing the media in his office, Aruasa said all stakeholders including learning institutions have been put on board in regards to the level of preparedness.
“Trained medical staff will be tasked to pass the same information, knowledge and skills to tutors and learners on safety and preventive actions,” he said.
MTRH has set aside 10-bed capacity isolation wards as part of their preparedness to handle the crisis.
Aruasa said the State had allowed them to spend the hospital’s emergency kitty to build a 15-bed capacity isolation ward and treatment centre whose work is expected to be completed by end of March.
MTRH has been training health workers from other North Rift county government hospitals on how to handle the illness. All hospitals have been advised to set aside isolation wards now following training of health staff.
However, Knut Elgeyo Marakwet county executive secretary John Cheberi fears that majority of population in remote areas have no knowledge on how to handle an outbreak.
He wants the national and county governments to roll out awareness campaigns on preventative and safety measures in the event of coronavirus outbreak in rural schools.
Joseph Chesergon, Kenya Union of Post Primary Secondary Education (Kuppet) Rift Valley council member has also asked the State to send trained health staff to schools.
He asked the government to declare which school events should be put on hold for the safety of the learners and tutors in the wake of fear of the pandemic.
“Teachers should be advised to suspend some events that might lead to contacts between the learners and foreigners during education tours,” said Chesergon.