The echo from Dr. Paitoon Ongate, Deputy Director of Kamphaeng Phet Hospital’s Mission Primary Care Group and as a father who has to manage part of his time from work to take care of children who have to study online at home, believed that the opening and closing of schools frequently due to the spread of COVID-19 caused children to lose or lack learning opportunities. As a result, he considered how to enable students to return to school as soon as possible and keep the school reopening sustainably.
The return of the children to school is unlikely to be the result of a single directive from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Health. However, the area must participate as well. Furthermore, Dr. Paitoon has spent his whole career in primary care, which has taught him that each region is unique. As a result, not all core measures and practices are relevant everywhere and should be adapted to suit each local context. Therefore, the idea was to mobilize cooperation from all parties to come together and see that if stakeholders were involved in the design, they would accept management rather than directing. The Equitable Education Fund (EEF) recognizes the need to reduce the educational gap because the objective is to close the achievement gap in children’s education. However, the COVID-19 is exacerbating the vulnerabilities. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kamphaeng Phet Province, Dr. Paitoon presented a proposal to create partners for safe school opening (called Kamphaeng Phet Model).
The first step of the process is to think about how to make the school environment safer, and then reduce the contact by analyzing what factors are involved. The first is immunity. Teachers and staff in the schools must be fully vaccinated, and all janitors and chefs must also be fully vaccinated. Second, if a kid becomes unwell and returns home, the parents are at risk. Therefore, they will ask to come in and get vaccinated. The majority of the parents had come to get their children vaccinated. Vaccines were sufficient towards the end of the year, allowing more than 90% of parents to get vaccinated, although some parents refused. In the unvaccinated group, parents have to speak with the school about how to monitor the kid and what to do if a problem arises. A measure that has been ordered from the center would be ideal for the project. What are the options for the school, and what is the issue? We’ll get together to discuss ideas and gain greater clarity. We’ve also noticed difficulties in a variety of settings, such as schools with large populations of students. We felt we could design administration to make the school more supportive of teaching, which many schools are attempting to do. Because certain items lack clear details from the central place, people throughout the neighborhood must rely on one another to think and collaborate.
Patchaneeporn Intharasut, the principal of Ban Pho Phatthana School, Kamphaeng Phet Province, said before the beginning of the semester, there was anxiety, fear that the children would not be able to provide comprehensive care and screening errors that led to school infections. But in fear, it is believed that the situation can be controlled. Even if there are infected children, it will not spread to a large extent because of the confidence of the community situation. The process of working in coordination among the school, the home, and the community is communicated all the time. The Sub-District Health Promoting Hospital will provide the advice, inform news and provide vaccinations for children, teachers, personnel, and parents thoroughly. If there are a stranger or people from other provinces who come to the area, the village health volunteers (VHV) will collaborate with the public health to help screen people in and out of the village as well as advise community leaders, villagers, and schools to be more careful and monitor each other. If it’s a relative of the child’s family at school, the teacher will talk to the child to stop school and self-isolate for 14 days for the safety of others. Furthermore, schools have strictly adhered to the measures based on central measures. Some are adapted to school contexts because not all of them can be followed. Classrooms, for example, are limited to 25 pupils per room. But at the school, there are more than 25 students per room, 3-4 people in 3 classes, which on some days the children do not attend the entire class, thus keeping a reasonable distance.
In addition, the region has consulted with the district chief and requested information on all instructors who intend to receive vaccinations. According to the requirements established by the public health department at the time of the school’s establishment, the instructors obtained more than 85 percent of the first dose of vaccine. Children began to be progressively vaccinated, with students above the age of 12 receiving 100% of the vaccine, leaving only primary school children approaching the age of 12 to get gradually vaccinated for a total of four rounds. For parents, the Sub-District Health Promoting Hospitals will be the caretaker. There is usually only one vaccination site in the district to facilitate the villagers. The Sub-District Health Promoting Hospitals coordinated with the district public health to request a separate area. The school, therefore, participates in arranging the vaccination site without the parents having to travel to the district specified. It makes the percentage of parents vaccinated higher, making the child safer. All this made the principal of Patchaneeporn view it as a factor that could cause Kamphaeng Phet province to reduce the severity of infection to a high surveillance area (yellow zone) last December.
“The most important success factors that should allow Kamphaeng Phet Province to open school safely are the Sub-District Health Promoting Hospital, village health volunteers (VHV), community leaders, teachers, and parents. There is closeness, communication, and collaboration together. We all help each other as eyes and ears.”
Because of the robustness of the network and Kamphaeng Phet Province’s management system, Dr. Paitoon agreed with Principal Patchaneeporn that every outbreak is caused by persons from outside the area coming. Therefore, both the administrative and public health departments have installed a monitoring system throughout the village. When we found the case, it was dealt with in the first place, causing no outbreaks in the second circle. After discussing with the stakeholders, I felt that more needs to be done were to put in place more crucial measures for people coming from different areas. If anyone entered the region as a relative or acquaintance of the child’s family, they would be responsible for Antigen Test Kits (ATK) and social distancing. The child may be temporarily suspended from school as it is considered a shared responsibility for safe schooling. If we can break the circuit here, the chance that outsiders come in and spread the disease to children is reduced. In addition, he sees that what must be taken into account when opening the school is the situation of the epidemic in the area. Therefore, schools with no cases should be permitted to open schools for children to study usually, but only with measures to control them.