DRINKING water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in schools are very important for child health, wellbeing, education, and developed outcomes.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) Dr. Franco Rodie told school principals, leaders and education authorities during a one day workshop on Thursday.
The workshop was held with the school heads and education authorities at the Saint Barnabas Cathedral conference room to guide them on their COVID-19 school preparedness, response, and recovery plan.
This followed the decision to have all schools in Honiara and parts of Guadalcanal to resume classes in the coming weeks.
“The importance of WASH in schools is recognized through international policy agendas, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in local and national policies, such as the Solomon Islands National Standards for WASH in schools,” Dr. Rodie said.
Dr. Rodie added that children spend a substantial portion of their day at school and thus require adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services.
“But are we providing safe and clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in schools?
“Should we do something serious about the current situation in our schools and not necessarily react when there is the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I should like to think that we should step up our efforts and resolve in order to minimise the spread of infectious diseases.
“I am pretty sure we can make change together given the opportunity COVID-19 has provided despite its threat,” Dr Rodie further added.
All schools in Honiara and Guadalcanal were instructed to close on March 25.
This followed the State of Emergency declared by the Governor-General and the Prime Minister in March of this year.
Dr Rodie said on average schools in Honiara would have been closed for almost two months- that is almost more than the mid-year school break that we usually have around June/July period.
He added that despite the fact that there was no confirmed case of coronavirus in Honiara, the closure of schools was necessary, and yet it had a significant impact on our students’ learning and education sector in terms of cost of the disruptions.
“It was deemed necessary to close schools and send students to their respective villages so that the Government and relevant authorities and Ministries could focus more on their preparedness and response plans to fight a potential outbreak of coronavirus in the country.
“One observation that can be made from the closure of schools is that the schools and other learning institutions such as our national university/SINU and rural training centres were not given ample time or some days to prepare for the indefinite closure.
“All learning institutions were caught by surprise but as the closure progressed few schools and Education Authorities did plan something to mitigate against the potential threat of coronavirus in preparation for restart of classes.
“Maybe the rest of the school leaders did not have time nor guidance to develop their COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan for a good reason.”
He said it was for this reason that this workshop was conducted to assist school head and education authority to prepare their school’s plan in order to respond to a threat posed by COVID-19.
The National Disaster Operation Committee for Education and Health organized the important workshop.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN