Schools in Oman set for partial return of students

Vaccine will also be provided to people working in schools

Teenage girl standing among high school students. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Teenage girl standing among high school students. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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Muscat: Students of classes one, four, five, nine and 11 will return to classes and adopt a blended model of learning, with schools taking a number of precautions to prevent students from being infected by COVID-19.

This development comes after a decision taken by the Ministry of Education, as part of a gradual process of bringing school-going students back to classrooms. This will be expanded to other grades, after considering the epidemiological situation in the country, as per discussions with the Supreme Committee to deal with the COVID-19.

“We would like to assure everyone that not all students will go back to schools this coming Sunday,” said Dr Abdullah Ambusaidi, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education. “There will be a gradual return during the next week and over time, so that this can happen in a safe and easy manner.”

Adding that the vaccine will also be provided to people working in schools, he explained, “There are other possible considerations to look at, upon which the decision will be made to either fully return to schools for the second semester, or continue with blended education.

“Should the pandemic continue to exist, the conceived scenario is to stick to blended learning,” Ambusaidi went on to say. “Face to face instructions will be held differently during the second semester of the academic year, in keeping with the epidemiological situation.”

To prepare for students returning to schools, the buses that take them there have also been fitted with the precautionary measures required to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“School buses are available, and the Ministry of Education has readied itself for this step for a long time,” said Dr Ali Al Jahwari, Director General of the General Directorate of Education in the Governorate of Muscat. “Bus contracts were signed last November, with operations planned for schools also taking into account the sizes of buses.

“The ministry has requested that the seating capacity of each bus should not exceed 50 per cent of its seats. Temperature measuring devices and sterilisers shall be provided for each bus,” he added. “It is important that the school administrators meet with bus drivers to remind them of the healthcare and preventive measures.”

So that students can continue learning as part of the blended learning system, the ministry has provided tablets and laptops to those who require them, while centralising the curricula through a platform that is easy to use and access.

“Indicators show significant use of this platform by students and teachers alike,” said Faisal bin Ali Al Busaidi, the assistant general manager of IT at the Ministry of Education.

“We made adjustments to the platform based on our field observations. There were three periodic surveys carried out by the ministry, to monitor the use of this platform by teachers and students.”

At the start of 2020, there were more than 600,000 students attending 1,163 public schools in the country, according to the Statistical Yearbook released by the National Centre for Statistics and Information. These schools contained upward of 22,500 classrooms, and nearly 57,000 teachers.

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