This week, many of you went back to school and colleges, physically, while many stayed at home and continued with online classes. I can imagine everyone must have been nervous, excited, scared and jubilant — all at the same time. After all, it has been a long time since you went out of the house, met friends, got a chance to interact with others and finally attend class with the teacher in front of you.

This has been a decision which took considerable deliberations and preparations on the part of everyone involved. The government made the announcement and many educational institutions undertook this mammoth challenge to welcome the students back on campus, while many opted to play safe and remain closed and continue with online classes. Both conditions have their challenges, as well as advantage and disadvantages.

Let us not go into that right now, what we should rather focus on is what to do now that some of you are going to school and how to learn to live well in such a situation.

Covid-19 is still there, people are still falling ill and there is still no vaccine or medicine for this viral disease. But life has to go on, the world has to move on, though cautiously and consciously, with full precautions that will help us avoid getting sick by the coronavirus. Our safety has been literally put into our own hands. We need to learn that life is not back to normal, but to a new normal where masks, sentitisers and social distancing are rules that we must all abide by.

The government has only taken enough responsibility to make this announcement, the rest of it falls on the educational institutes, the students and their parents, and all the support staff involved. While some schools do have the kind of infrastructure to manage social distancing to some extent, most colleges and schools lack enough funds, space and manpower to be able to provide the kind of safe environment that is expected in the current pandemic situation.

I can imagine how stressed the administrations of these institutions must be and how hard they must be working to keep themselves and the students safe. They must all be providing the best facilities and SOPs available to them and many must be going beyond their capacity to meet this challenge.

Children, you have to realise that you too have a responsibility here, an active role to play to make this going back to school in 2020 a safe and successful time. You and your parents are the key players in the current situation ­­— you have to take responsibility for your own safety and follow all the precautions that everyone of us knows well by now.

The aim of school and colleges reopening is not to just have students back into the institutions safely, but also to make sure that there is minimum risk of the virus getting into the school. So you have to learn to be mindful that you are not going back to the school environment that you left, but a new one that requires a new routine and behaviour.

You must not only be responsible about avoiding situations and actions that may lead to your exposure to the virus, but you must also take it upon yourselves to make sure that if you are sick, you do not expose others to this virus. When you see someone else being careless, such as getting too close or touching their face with hand, etc, you must not hesitate to remind them of the good practices recommended by doctors.

If your school or school van has laid down some rules, be it regarding social distancing or anything else, you have to follow it and remind others to follow it to. Yes, it was fun to break a few rules in school back in the good old days before coronavirus arrived, but now it can be disastrous since, like I said earlier, your health and that of others is in your hands.

It is easy to see that globally, in countries where strict lockdown and SOPs were imposed and people followed them, they were able to keep the Covid-19 infection spread to a low and manageable level, while the rest of the world, who felt that their freedom was being suppressed and didn’t take things seriously, they suffered in hundreds of thousands. Those who know of a person who has had Covid-19, realise that this is not a hoax.

Finally, there is no need to panic or be stressed. This will only make things more difficult for you. Be strong and show this virus that you are stronger — you can beat it by being responsible and alert. It’s a tiny thing that can easily be killed in seconds with soap or a disinfectant. You can easily keep your hands clean and off your face, can’t you? See how simple it is? Your hands and nose are the two things you have to take care of and you will be safe. And, if you stay positive, only positive things will happen.

So, good luck with this new phase in your student life. Stay safe and keep others safe!


Masks up!

Tips:

• WHO recommend wearing cloth face masks in public places, especially on the bus, at the drop-off or pickup point, and when entering the building.

• You should carry multiple cloth face masks with you, stored in a clean and re-sealable bag, especially to store the mask when you can’t wear it, such as when eating.

• Label your mask clearly so it’s not confused with another child’s.

• Practice properly putting on and taking off cloth face masks while avoiding touching the cloth portions.

• Clean your hands before and after touching the mask.

• Never share, borrow or lend masks with others.

• Those who have a medical condition that makes wearing a mask lead to difficulty in breathing, they should inform the school and maintain a good distance with others.

How to wear a mask

In order to be effective, masks should:

• Cover both the nose and mouth

• Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face

• Be secured with ear loops or ties

• Have multiple layers of fabric

• Allow for unrestricted breathing

• Be washed and dried carefully after use

Published in Dawn, Young World, September 19th, 2020