The COVID-19 pandemic has arguably impacted school-going children more than anyone else. That is likely to change with a large number of them returning to schools soon, some through blended education and others full-time. One thing that will aide the return of pupils to school is vaccination.
Free vaccination for Indian expatriate students over 12 years has started with a lot of vigour. The announcement of the re-opening of public and private schools with mandatory vaccination has expedited the immunisation process.
Every day a large number of excited Indian students are turning up at the vaccination centre set up at the sprawling Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) with their parents.
The free vaccination drive has been hailed by parents and the school board alike.
Ibrahim Aga, a parent of two children aged 10 and 13 years, said, “It is a good initiative by the authorities to start vaccinating the students for free.”
Eager to get his children vaccinated, Aga didn’t wait for the authorities to give free jabs. He went to a private hospital and got the first dose for his elder son. However, he is happy to get the second does at the OCEC.
Aga said, “We are desperately looking forward to schools starting on-campus classes.”
He has noticed that his kids are not able to focus in online classes and “technical glitches add to the problems, while sedentary lifestyle issues are rising due to very little physical activity”.
Aga believes schools should welcome only vaccinated students. “Younger than twelve should continue with the online classes.”
Another parent, Abdullah F, was a little hesitant about vaccinating his 13-year-old son. But since the authorities announced that to attend school, students should be vaccinated, Abdullah got his son vaccinated with the first dose on Sunday.
“I was more concerned about the financial aspect of getting my kids vaccinated,” he said. “I am happy for my kid getting a free vaccine and looking forward to the school reopening.”
Dr Sivakumar Manickam, chairman of the Indian Schools Board of Oman, told Muscat Daily that the board has received the circular mentioning the detailed guidelines from the Ministry of Education (MoE) about restarting the schools.
“School principals and school management committees will come up with a plan and report the readiness for reopening the schools soon,” he said.
“Once the plan from all the schools are submitted, the board will discuss and decide when to reopen the schools. Of course, reopening as early as possible is the need of the hour, but safety is our prime concern,” Dr Manickam added.
Commenting on free vaccination, Dr Manickam said, “The MoE initially reached us for the vaccination of teaching staff and students of Grade 10-12; and all eligible students and teaching staff in Muscat governorate have been vaccinated with the first dose. Obviously, it is a big task as our students and teacher numbers are huge. We are thankful to the MoE and the Ministry of Health for free vaccines.”
“In other governorates, almost all the eligible students and teachers have been vaccinated with two doses,” said Dr Manickam.
Dr Zainab Balushi, public health specialist, head of infection prevention and control, and member of the operation team of the vaccination centre at OCEC, said, “The international schools’ coverage has been good with very high acceptance of vaccination.” She advised that only one parent should accompany children to the vaccination centre to avoid overcrowding.
(Text and photo by Syed Fasiuddin)