THE beginning of the schools’ first term is usually shrouded in anxieties for both parents and students for a number of reasons.
For students, they are filled with trepidation as they advance to the next level of education while for the parents they get absorbed into raising sufficient school requirements for their children.
However, this time around the aspect of hygiene in schools will have to rank highly for both parents and pupils in the light of the cholera outbreak that has mostly ravaged Lusaka. Boarding schools should particularly have high standards of hygiene.
There are pupils coming from cholera affected areas enrolled in boarding schools and other institutions away from their townships, who can easily cause cross-contamination.
On the flip-side, there are pupils in cholera free locations enlisted in schools located in highly-contaminated areas.
The scenario presents a jigsaw puzzle for parents, teachers and school administrations, hence requires constant collaboration with the ministry of health as well as the local authorities.
Quite alright, the disease burden has receded almost in all areas, but all the people need to be steadfastly alert to avoid new infections.
There are institutions that have not less than 1,000 pupils with varying background and behavioural patterns; hence getting all of them to adhere to rules of hygiene and general cleanliness presents a challenge.
Secondly, staff levels of environmental health inspectors and other health practitioners are low to meet the demands not only in learning institutions but in other public places around the country.
Education standards officers are equally not enough
Demand for school places has outstripped the available space, a scarred situation that has led to over-enrolment. The pressure on lavatories is immense!
It is also true that some learning institutions do not have sufficient water for consumption and cleaning purposes due to run down infrastructure. Repairs cannot be done overnight.
As schools re-open on Monday, school authorities must ensure that their institutions have sufficient clean and running water all the time. Schools whose taps have run dry may have to stagger their opening day.
Parents must play a leading role in impressing upon their children to observe the highest standards of hygiene both at home and at school.
In schools, teachers must equally emphasise the compelling need for children to always maintain clean surroundings. Teachers too must be clean all the time.
Sanitizers and other disinfectants must be readily available in all learning institutions across the country.
It is important for school authorities to boost the ‘cleaning competition’ and inspections in which the class or house (in case of boarding schools) which excels is awarded with a prize. This should continue as a weekly exercise.
The Government on its part needs to embark on renovations and expansion of schools while continuing with building new ones. Private institutions on the other hand, should equally improve the state of their infrastructure.
This matter must be applicable to all institutions starting from nursery through to tertiary learning institutions. Pre-school teachers should particularly be extra cautious because they are dealing with infants.
The exercise should not be restricted in cholera-hit areas, but extended to all institutions even in the remotest parts of the country.
In particular, the boarding schools must be strictly monitored because disease can spread fast as they feed from the same dining halls.
In fact, interventions should not be narrowed to cholera alone, but preventive measures must be couched in a manner that addresses all ailments that can breed in unclean environments.
Young learners are said to be leaders of tomorrow, hence must be treasured for Zambia to have more educated people who can take up leadership roles in the near future.
Therefore, teachers and parents must complement each other in teaching the children about cleanliness.
As Ann Landers said in one adage, “it is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”