*Out of more than 350,000 students and over 35,000 teachers in Qatar, less than 0.2% have tested positive since schools reopened
Parents in Qatar have the option of continuing with blended learning for their children or switching entirely to remote learning from next week, a senior official has said.
Mohamed al-Bishri, media consultant for HE the Minister of Education and Higher Education's Office, revealed this while addressing a press conference with Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation, on Monday.
Blended learning, which has been in place since the start of the new academic year on September 1, involves a mix of remote learning and face-to-face teaching.
Al-Bishri said parents have to decide whether they will opt for online education or blended learning for their children, and this arrangement will be in place from next week. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) will have to make the necessary preparations based on this decision.
In a statement, the MoEHE said al-Beshri announced a set of decisions taken by the ministry based on the daily evaluation of the blended learning system since the return to schools on September 1.
The decisions were taken after direct and continuous co-ordination with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
Blended learning shall remain applicable in all public and private schools, while maintaining the approved attendance rate of 30% and observing the precautionary measures.
Starting next week, parents will be given a choice between proceeding with blended learning or switching entirely to distance learning. This aims at "controlling classroom attendance and explanation mechanisms", the statement notes.
It is necessary to register students' attendance and monitor absence days in both the blended and distance learning modes, the ministry said, adding that it is mandatory that students attend examinations at schools.
Al-Beshri said the ministry has clarified a number on important points and guidelines.
"It is necessary for all community members to exercise caution and abide by the precautionary measures and social distancing in daily life. This will help them protect themselves and their families, and will facilitate the continuity of the educational process," the statement continued. "The school environments are even safer. The investigation of cases detected in a few schools and classrooms found that the infection occurred outside schools and that it was transmitted to the school community."
If any cases are discovered, it is necessary to follow the applicable protocol in co-ordination with the MoPH. Accordingly, students in any infected classroom should not be allowed to attend to school and should be called to undergo tests by the MoPH.
In the event of any classroom closure, the school management must notify the parents of the closure via SMS.
If an entire school is closed, this will be announced by the ministry in keeping with the currently applicable protocol.
If the number of Covid-19 cases increases, a recommendation will be made to suspend the respective classroom or school and switch to distance learning.
"The ministry once again calls on all members of the community not to pay attention to rumours and only refer to reliable sources for any developments and/or updates related to education under the current Covid-19 situation," he said.
During the press conference, al-Beshri highlighted the efforts made by the MoEHE to keep the education process moving on in the Covid-19 pandemic situation. He referred to the various precautionary measures that the ministry has circulated among public and private schools to be observed before and during the school day.
Addressing the press conference, Dr al-Khal said children continue to be at "very low risk" of serious symptoms both here in Qatar and around the world.
"In nearly two weeks since students returned to school, we have identified a small number of positive cases among children and teachers," he said. "Our track and trace teams have found that these positive cases did not catch the virus when attending schools — they caught the virus mainly at home during social gatherings."
"While any new case among children is of concern, it is important that we put this into context," the official said, while also stressing the need to "consider the big picture and review the data as a whole".
"Out of more than 350,000 students and over 35,000 teachers in Qatar, less than 0.2% have tested positive since schools reopened," he added.
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