Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County – Concerns are increasing about the failure of school administrators to enforce Covid-19 during school hours. Residents of Grand Gedeh County say schools in the county are allowing students without nose masks in classes while hand washing and physical distancing are being ignored.
In early March 2020, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidance to help protect students from transmission of the Covid-19..
The guidance seeks to provide critical considerations and practical checklists to keep schools safe. It also advises national and local authorities on how to adapt and implement emergency plans for educational facilities.
The guidelines informed school administrations to providing children with information about how to protect themselves; which include the promoting of best hand washing and hygiene practices and providing hygiene supplies; cleaning and disinfecting school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities; and Increasing airflow and ventilation.
Despite the existence of the guideline, many residents are complaining that schools are not doing enough to enforce adherence by students and teachers.
Mr. George Doe, a resident of disco hill Community in Zwedru, said he rarely sees students following the guidelines since schools reopen, something that is “undermining the effort of the Ministry of Health” to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Let the county health team visit all of the schools in the county and enforce the mandate from this point, any school seen violating must be fine”, Doe suggests. “Because we don’t want reoccurrence of new cases or case of the virus in the county, let all of us remember that Liberia is yet to be free from the virus”.
Businesswoman Betty Gaye Barblor, who sells at the Zwedru central market, expressed disappointment in the County Health Team for not enforcing the Covid-19 protocols in the county, while complaining that students are not being made to abide by the guideline.
“It is true that since my children came back from the New Year’s break and returned to school, they are going without nose masks. I have three them; one person is in the 6th grade, while the others are in the senior high,” she explains.
“When they started going to school last year, I bought each of them two pieces of cloth nose masks including hand sensitizers, but they stop carrying them to school. When I asked them, they told me that their colleagues are not using these things in school, so it serves as an embarrassment to them and again some of their friends in school take it from them by force and use it to wipe their hands after eating. For this reason, they said they are not going to use it again in school.
“Look, nearly all of the schools in Grand Gedeh County were given thermo flash and hand washing drum or bucket by partners for everyone entering the school to wash his/her hands and to check the person temperature, but this is not happening ay more”.
There are also growing concerns about little or no adherence to the COVID-19 school guidelines in other parts of the county as parents increase calls for the Ministry of Education to enforce the protocol at schools.
In Konobo District, motorcyclist Paul Waylee says students barely follow any protocol while school administrations make little or no effort to ensure schools are safe for pupils.
“I am informing you that no student or teacher you can see wearing nose mask while going and coming from school,” Waylee told LocalVoicesLiberia.
While students are being noticed for flouting the preventive measures, some claim school administrations are not doing much to enforce the protocol while others are just non-conformists.
Malian Dweh of the Konobo Junior High school says she has never been asked by her school authorities to “wear nose mask, wash hands before entering class or do temperature check at the entry of the school”.
Jamama Wleh, an 11th grade student of Mike Tulah Wilson High school in Zwedru, does not see the importance of following the protocol “because Covid-19 has subsided”.
“For over five months, we have not heard that there is a single case of Covid-19 in Grand Gedeh County to be announced by the county health team, so for me, I believe that the virus gone, no more virus again,” she said. “In our school, it’s not mandatory to wash hands and even wearing of nose mask”.
Some administrators including Mr. Melvin Gear, Vice Principal of the Suah Memorial High school in Zwedru, said although many schools have the basic materials to follow the health protocol, “it is difficult to deal with students,” adding that many students are unwilling to abide by the health measures.
When contacted, County Education officer Harris Doe admitted that school authorities in the county are not enforcing the Covid-19 protocols but promised to work with the county health team to “find solution to the problem”.
Meanwhile, County Health Officer, Dr. Augustine Fannineh has planned a tour of schools in the county to encourage students follow the preventive measures.
“As a parent, I called on the Ministry of Education with support from the County Health Team to make it mandatory for our school-going children to wash their hands and wear their nose masks before entering the premises of a school,” Dr. Fannineh said.
“If this is happening it will help save our children and we parents as well, because you never know who is carrying the virus on campus”.