Back to School – During the Covid-19 Pandemic!

Media Statement from the Independent Community Pharmacy Association of South Africa (ICPA) on going back to school in a pandemic

Back to school in a pandemic

Covid-19 has changed our lives, possibly forever. Last year, when schools were closed, both parents and children needed to cope with homeschooling. Now as the new school year begins, we need to make sure that we have done, and continue to do, everything we can to protect our children and to encourage them to benefit from their school days.

During the lockdown, many children missed their routine vaccines. Before school opens, make sure that your children are up-to-date with their vaccines, and have received all the necessary vaccines.

“Remember to deworm your children, and their pets, regularly,” advises Jackie Maimin, CEO of the Independent Community Pharmacists Association (ICPA). “This contributes to kids’ general health, which helps them to cope with school work.”

Although good nutrition can provide all the nutrients that growing children need, these are very stressful times. There are times when it will be useful to give children multivitamin preparations. “Speak to your pharmacist about multivitamins that would be suitable for your child,” says Maimin.

Returning to school can be traumatic for parents and children alike. Minimise the stress by having a checklist that can be followed every day. Involve the children in packing their school bags for you to check. Remember to include hand sanitiser in a container that the child can manage, a spare mask and a bottle of water.

Help your child to develop the habit of practising good hand hygiene during routine activities. Explain to your child why this is important and encourage handwashing before and after eating, sneezing, coughing and adjusting a mask. “You can even challenge your children to find a new song to sing while washing hands – by now they’re probably so bored with singing “Happy birthday” twice that they’ve given up doing it,” suggests Maimin. “They need to be reminded that washing your hands properly takes more than just a quick rinse.”

Parents need to reinforce the concept of physical distancing, which is sometimes very difficult for young children. Using hula hoops in some schools has been very useful to demonstrate safe distances to children.

“It sounds strange to tell children not to share things at school,” says Maimin. “But they need to know that they shouldn’t touch other people’s belongings. This includes books, pens, pencils and water bottles.”

The most important way that a parent or caregiver can prepare their children for going back to school safely is to be a good role model. “Take care of yourself as well,” urges Maimin. “Show your child that you get plenty of sleep, eat well and exercise regularly. By involving children in taking breaks and participating in Zoom or WhatsApp calls, you can show them that even while being physically distanced, you can still be connected to family and friends.”

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