Children will have to return to school this New Year amidst a host of health guidelines and advice to be followed scrupulously. According to Dr. B. J. C Perera, Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Founder President of the Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians, opening of schools is a necessity given that children need to mix and mingle with other children and teachers as part of their education and social development. He further opined, “However, with the reopening of schools, one has to think of possible or potential consequences as far as the pandemic is concerned. Although it is only a small percentage of children who are now quite well-known to show symptoms even when they are infected by COVID-19, the danger of them carrying the disease is that it could spread around without anybody knowing about it.”
He further said that therefore one must look at how children would travel from home to school and back. “Those who enjoy school transport would take that, but there is a large percentage of children who use public transport. So what about them? Even in school it is not easy to maintain all the health guidelines. It is very important for adults and school authorities to explain to their children as to why it’s so crucial to follow the essential fundamentals such as maintaining one metre distance, washing of hands and wearing a mask properly,” he added.
If they do not follow health guidelines and in case they contract the illness, they are more than likely to bring it home and spread it among family members. Dr. Perera further said that at home you find elderly people who may be patients with accompanying comorbid diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and lung problems. “Therefore it is important to follow health guidelines at home as well,” the doctor said.
He further advised parents to refrain from sending their children to school if they identify any signs of fever, a cold or a cough. “Children should also be advised to keep away from sharing food, pens, pencils and other utensils in the class. These are important aspects of preventive measures. In case they detect a child who has tested positive for COVID-19, they should send the child to an isolation facility and in certain circumstances even close the school for a minimum of 14 days,” he affirmed.
Dr. Perera especially stressed that education is of paramount importance for the intellectual development of a child and that keeping schools closed for prolonged periods is not a viable option. He added that we need to ensure a sound education for children as the future of any country is totally dependent on the younger generations of its populace. In addition, there is no reason to curtail games, sports and physical training activities in schools even under the present circumstances provided the health guidelines are faithfully complied with.