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Primary, secondary schools set for re-opening today | 18 May 2020

Primary, secondary schools set for re-opening today

From left to right : Minister Simeon, PS De Comarmond, CEO Vel and PS Andre

After almost two months of ‘special’ holidays, primary and secondary students of government schools will head back to school today.

They will find that their schools will function under the ‘new normal’ with new ways of doing things.

“We do not expect everything to be perfect on Monday (today) but we are working to make necessary adjustments,” said Jeanne Simeon, the Minister for Education and Human Resource Development, in a press conference on Saturday together with the chief executive of the Seychelles Public Transport Corporation (SPTC), Patrick Vel; the principal secretary for early childhood, primary and secondary education, Dr Odile De Comarmond; principal secretary for secondary and tertiary education Dr Linda Barallon; and the principal secretary for Land Transport, Patrick Andre.

Minister Simeon noted that “During the last two weeks, there have been intensive works going on in all our schools in preparation for the re-opening on Monday. We have put in place our re-opening action plan and we visited the schools accompanied by teams from the department of health. There are two plans for the schools – one coming from the ministry and one for each school. For the re-opening of the school, we received our guidance from the department of health and last week we were told that most of our schools are ready for re-opening. With the thorough work being done, we are convinced that all schools will open their doors on Monday.”

All schools are working around these three principles – heightened vigilance, social distancing and hygiene.

“Some schools can practice social distancing without issue, but there are some schools where we are unable to put the 1 – 2 metres distancing, but the department of health is happy with other arrangements made. We have now increased hygiene in the school.”


Social distancing

“We are in the business of education and my message is also for the parents. We need to as of now educate our children about social distancing. We are no longer living in a normal condition and we all need to be aware of this. The children will still be able to play at school and they will be taught how to do so. Schools have even changed the timing for breaks to make room for social distancing,” added Minister Simeon.

Resumption of school bus service

“SPTC worked really hard with the Ministry of Education. They are ready and the schedule is ready. SPTC will reassure the transportation of all primary and secondary students back and forth to their schools. The time table has been published in the media. The only changes are: the secondary students living at Sea View will have to catch the bus on the main road ‘Kot Despilly’ as we are using a big bus; we have also added another bus to take the primary students of La Gogue and Maldives to bring them to Anse Etoile school. The same bus will return to collect the secondary students to bring them to English River school. All students who did not use the school bus before and where there was no school bus, they can still use public buses,” explained Mr Vel.

PS De Comarmond added that the students from Belonie school who were shifted to Nisti (Bel Ombre) will also use private buses as of Monday and the schedule will be printed in the media.

For post-secondary students, PS Andre confirmed that they have outsourced this service with the association of omnibus operators.

“We have had several discussions with them together with the different institutions and we are finalising the schedule. All buses will have the names of the institutions displayed to facilitate their movement. We have also established a focal point between each institution and the omnibus operators. As we go along we will adjust the service. The service will start at 6am and the schedule will be published in the media and made available to all schools. However there will be no direct service for students living in secondary roads. They will have to catch a SPTC bus to come to the main road where they can get their bus to their schools. We expect some hiccups for the first week, but we hope parents and students will give us the necessary support. We ask the students to come on time by the road as the normal SPTC buses will not carry students in uniform.”

All students will be able to recharge their bus cards at school instead of queueing up at the SPTC office.

“It is a ‘new normal’ for all of us and we expect discipline from the students. They have to respect all the norms and listen to the advice of the drivers,” stressed Mr Andre.

Mr Vel noted that Monday is also the day where many parents will resume work. “From 7am to 8.15am we will have some 200 trips only for students by 90 buses. We have 180 buses on our roads at any given time. Now we are reorganising the roster for the drivers in order to have more buses on the road. Time table for public does not change but we have lost 50% of our seating. We are trying to work on it and add more buses on key routes. But as soon as the trips for students are done, all buses will be available to transport the public.”


School for the Exceptional Child

As mentioned previously, the School for the Exceptional Child will open a week later. “We will have a meeting this week with the management of the school including the two drivers and the parents. We will discuss the measures required to prepare for the re-opening of the School for the Exceptional Child,” noted Dr De Comarmond.


Support from all

Minister Simeon and PS De Comarmond also expressed gratitude towards the parents who are coming forward to help out.

“There are parents who have been slotted in schedules to do some tasks at schools. Some will help in the dining room, others with screening as well as cleaning and maintenance of the schools.”

“I would like to thank all the staff from the Public Health Authority, the head teachers and their staff, the directors of the professional centres and their staff, SPTC, the Omnibus Association, the staff at the Ministry of Education, the council chairs, the sponsors, the parents and the media that helped in the implementation of the re-opening plan. Not everything will be 100 percent in the first week. We are all in the same situation and we are also facing this situation for the first time. We urge the parents to collaborate with us and let us learn and adjust along the way,” concluded Minister Simeon.


Vidya Gappy

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