Sri Lanka recognised for ensuring safety of children returning to school

Sri Lanka has been recognised as being among the first countries in South Asia to open schools and bring children back in a safe way.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) congratulated Sri Lanka for its effective response to COVID-19.

“We congratulate Sri Lanka for its effective response to COVID-19, which has placed it in the impressive position of being among the first countries in South Asia to open schools and bring children back in a safe way” said Mr. Tim Sutton, Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka, adding “While education continued during school closures, we know that the  best place for children to learn – especially the most vulnerable  –  is with their teachers and friends in a positive, safe school environment. However, the risk of COVID-19 remains. That’s why our message is simple – follow these ‘7 new lessons’ from the new campaign, and we can limit the risk of COVID-19 for children, teachers, parents and communities, and get back to learning.”

A new national media campaign is asking children and parents to follow seven new and essential ‘lessons’ to limit the risk and spread of COVID-19, as schools reopen across Sri Lanka following months of closure.

Launched by the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) of the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services (MoH) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with funding from the United States, the national campaign – titled ‘COVID-19: New Lessons in the New Term’ – engages children, parents and caregivers, with information to manage the risk of COVID-19, and eliminate the stigma faced by individuals impacted by COVID-19 by encouraging them to undertake key actions before, during, and after school.  The advice includes;

  1. Always keeping at least one-meter distance.
  2. Frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after engaging in any activity.
  3. Covering nose and mouth with a face mask when outside the classroom.
  4. Sneezing or coughing into a bent elbow or tissue, while ensuring that the tissue is disposed of into a bin with lid. Washing your hands with soap afterwards.
  5. Keeping all surfaces clean and sanitized regularly.
  6. If a child is experiencing fever, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath, stay at home and consult a doctor.
  7. Not discriminating against anyone because of coronavirus. Being kind and supporting each other to stay safe.

The new campaign features two TV advertisements, in-class posters, stickers for school buses, sign boards at the entrance to schools and radio advertisements in national languages. To ensure that the messages resonate with a wide audience, the advertisements also feature a repurposed musical theme of a popular, traditional poem ‘Guru Sitha Noridhava’. Launched to coincide with the reopening of schools on 10 August 2020, the campaign will run through to the end of August 2020.

I’m delighted the United States is helping to ensure the well-being of young Sri Lankans,” said U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz.  “As students return to school, the United States is working to eliminate the risks associated with COVID-19 by educating communities on good health practices. Everyone deserves a safe learning environment.” The U.S. funding is provided through U.S. Government’s development agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The ‘COVID-19: New Lessons in the New Term’ campaign is the latest phase in UNICEF’s ongoing support to the Government of Sri Lanka in response to COVID-19, that has also seen UNICEF procure essential medical items, support the development of safe school operations  guidelines, promoting WASH facilities and hygiene practices in schools, the development of learning materials  for home-based learning, support for ‘catch up’ education, and provide expertise in the areas of health, nutrition, education, child protection, social policy and communications. UNICEF will continue to work closely with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people across the country during and after the COVID-19 global pandemic. (Colombo Gazette)