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COVID-19 and Reopening Schools: Focus on Cleaning and Maintenance!

Schools in many countries around the world are slowly reopening or are set to reopen soon during the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In light of this development, emphasis is placed on water, sanitation and hygiene in schools (WASH in schools). Particular focus is now on properly cleaning schools in preparation for student’s return – and to keep them clean throughout the whole school year!

Therefore, Fit for School has worked intensively with school principals, teachers, students and with officials from the Department of Education to develop a practical guidebook to establish good operation and maintenance practices for WASH facilities in schools. 

The manual and its recommendations, tools and descriptions of roles, responsibilities and tasks can be found HERE.  

The operation and maintenance of these facilities, which includes toilets and other washing facilities, are shared responsibilities that require the engagement of everyone including teachers, parents, students and community members. The school needs to have a reliable system in place, and the toilet checklist included in the manual is a helpful tool in developing routines for managing the functionality and cleanliness of the facilities, as well as clarifying roles and responsibilities between the supervising teacher, students and the cleaners.

Principals should assign teachers to oversee the cleanliness and usability of toilets and handwashing stations and to supervise students. Now more than ever, it is crucial that school principals and teachers ensure that group hygiene activities, such group hand washing with soap and group tooth brushing activities, are practiced daily with the students.

In addition, school principals are also advised to take the lead in the development of a WASH in Schools (WinS) improvement plan with parents and the community. To achieve this, principals should allocate school budget for WinS, seek close partnership with parents and the community and facilitate the resource mapping, and link with the local government and other stakeholders. For schools seeking further guidance on cleaning for reopening, especially with regards to disinfecting, cleaning and preparing, Fit for School as part of the Global WASH in Schools Network has developed “10 Immediate WASH in Schools Actions”, which can be found HERE.