Physical distancing for COVID-19 in schools impossible

Concerns are being raised by the public on whether physical distancing (also called social distancing) for COVID-19 may be or not possible in school settings.

Schools in TAFEA Province, Port Vila and some in SHEFA are set to resume normal classes next week following a directive from the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) as instructed by the Council of Ministers (COM).

Principal of Onesua Presbyterian College (OPC), Graham Kalmar, said physical distancing will be challenging to manage in dormitories and classrooms where there is limited space for the recommended 1.5m COVID-19 physical distancing.

“OPC and Onesua Technical College (OTC) may exercise measures of lock down once they resume classes.

“This means students may not be allowed to leave campus at any time till term holidays. Those not abiding may not be refused entry to campuses.

“The school may also be restricting visits by parents and visitors.

“402 students of OPC and 53 of OTC have received their 6-week home school packages and now have with them load of work.

“While students are now homeschooling, teachers are working on the college’s Moodle platform and may have all subject online end of this month.”

Principal of Malapoa College, Shem Simeon, said staff of the college also shared similar concerns about the impossibility of enforcing social distancing.

He confirmed that principals from around Efate will be voicing their concerns on the matter to the authorities in a meeting scheduled today (Wednesday).

Acting Principal of Freswota Bilingual School, Jean Joel Pakoa, said physical distancing is impractical for them with crowded classrooms and a high student population of 1,650.

According to Pakoa, a lot of classrooms at Freswota School accommodate between 40 to 60 children.

A teacher from a secondary school in Epi told the Daily Post that physical distancing is not practical for them.

“I don’t think it will work out,” said the teacher.

The teacher said they are waiting for the arrival of the home school packages from Port Vila that were delayed by cyclone Harold.

Some parents are worried about sending their children back to school.

Schools throughout the country were instructed to close during the previous SOE. Teachers were told to develop home school packages for students to continue learning at home.

Schools that will be resuming again are instructed to maintain physical distancing and good hygiene practices.

Each school has until end of this week to develop their own plans for managing health and social distancing.

These plans should take into consideration disinfection of school buildings, arrangement of alternative classes to manage physical distancing, daily monitoring of students and hand washing equipment.

To date there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Vanuatu.

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