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Friday, February 26, 2021

All you need to know: Qatar amends back-to-school plans amid COVID-19 concerns

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By Menatalla Ibrahim

Qatar’s education ministry (MOEHE) announced changes to a previous back-to-school plan, authorities confirmed on Wednesday, to ensure students’ safety while maintaining the quality of education provided.

The new amendments are part of MOEHE’s three-phase back-to-school plan for the 2020/21 academic year that is set to introduce a blended learning system — a combination of online and classroom-based learning — during the first semester.

The changes will be implemented across all educational stages, including private and governmental schools, higher education, and nurseries.

In a statement published on Wednesday evening, the ministry said it co-ordinated closely with the Minsitry of Public Health (MOPH) to abide by necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in ongoing efforts to stem the number of infections in the country. The move aims to ensure the safety of all students in Qatar while also mitigating rampant academic consequences that have become prevalent due to the outbreak.

Here is all you need to know about re-opening plans for next semester:

  • Schools will resume on September 1st with a combination of online and classroom-based learning.
  • Students will be allowed to attend basic classes and conduct laboratory experiments and tests at the premises once or twice a week. The maximum attendance rate will be capped at 30% of the school capacity per day, though each school will be tasked with determining the percentage of students attending.
  • For higher education, 30% of students will be allowed attend campus daily from September to November. Exam attendance will be considered as needed.
  • To ensure social distancing, no more than 15 students will be allowed in each classroom. Schools must ensure that desks are arranged with a distance of 1.5 meters between each student in the classroom.
  • Distance learning will take place on days when students are not attending school, depending on the school’s class schedule.
  • According to the blended learning model, students will take the mid-semester and end-of-semester exams at the school premises. Schools will be responsible for planning the exam schedules to ensure physical distancing is maintained and the capacity limit is not exceeded.
  • Preparatory and high school students will have to wear (cloth) face masks.
  • For specialised, technical, special needs and remote schools, where the total number of students amounts to 30% of the school capacity, students will be allowed to attend in full capacity (100%) on a daily basis.

All schools should:

  • During the first three days (September 1–3), schools are required to introduce students to precautionary measures while on school campus, in accordance with MOEHE and MOPH health regulations.
  • Distribute relevant leaflets and brochures to students and parents at the beginning of the academic year to ensure awareness is spread and precautionary measures are maintained.
  • Ensure students are well-educated and aware of how to use the remote learning system smoothly.
  • Provide students with rotational attendance schedules for the first semester. Distance and classroom-based learning days should be set out clearly for both students and parents to understand.
  • The entry and exit of students to school grounds must be organised to maintain physical distancing and avoid overcrowding. Morning assembly and group activities, including trips, camps, celebrations and the like, will be suspended and replaced with virtual events, if possible.

Exception from attending classes:

  • Students who suffer chronic diseases and have an approved medical report to support it.
  • Students whose parents suffer chronic conditions are also exempted from attending school to avoid the possible transmission of infection. An approved medical certificate and national address certificate for the patient should be submitted to the school. Students that are exempt for these reasons must still attend main exams at the school premises when necessary.

Nurseries

A total of 19 nurseries, which have fulfilled all conditions, precautionary and preventive measures, have been approved for opening by The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs.

These include:

Woodberry Nursery, Honeypot Nursery — Aziziya, Muaither Modern Nursery, Little Leaders Nursery — Abu Hamour, Creative Kids Nursery, Sussex for Early Education, Dreamers Nursery, Grandma Nursery — Al Waab, Pink and Blue Nursery, Busy Hands Nursery, Babyland Nursery, Baby Star Nursery, Primrose Nursery, PreScholars Nursery, Smurf Nursery, Al Reem Nursery, Bright Beginnings Nursery, Erin Mills Nursery and Apple Tree Nursery.

Regulations for nurseries

  • All employees of the nursery must show their status on the Ehteraz health application. Those accompanying children to and from the premises are also required to show the ‘Green’ status on the app.
  • Parents are advised to pay fees through online banking or with cards. In case of cash payments, parents are required to place the due amount in an envelope, which will be received by the nursery administration from the main gate.
  • Nurseries are required to hold a COVID-19 test for all workers. Only those with a negative test result are permitted to work on the premises.
  • Employees with health conditions, such as chronic diseases, or those who are pregnant, should not be made to work.
  • In case of any infection, the nursery should be closed for 14 days and sterilised. Those infected should be examined again before returning to work or rejoining the nursery.

The nitty-gritty details

Despite the regulations, parents have shown concern over sending their children to nurseries, questioning whether staff members will be able to impose the tight restrictions on toddlers. Speaking to Doha News, Woodberry Nursery assured it had taken all things into consideration.

The Doha-based nursery confirmed it received the green light for approval only after complying with all the ministry’s regulations, including providing single-use protective gear, such as face shields, face mask, hair covers, indoor shoes, gloves, protective gowns, for all its staff, including security guards working on site. The nursery said it had also installed foot-steps corridors that will help guide the children on the premises and has ensured it would randomly check body temperatures throughout the day. Children will not be allowed to play with sand or water and all tools, toys and equipment will be individually labeled to ensure no cross-contamination.

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