Pastoral Care For Students In Residential Schools

The teaching and support staff must brainstorm and co-create an elaborate set of guidelines which will be stringently followed once we are able to welcome students back to the campus.

Finding the fulcrum between ‘Life’ and ‘Livelihood’ is proving to be far more difficult than anticipated. The only constant in today’s dynamic environment is the march towards normalcy. The education sector is no different except that it directly impacts our future. Most education institutions across the spectrum have opened on various digital platforms with a huge variation on quality. This not the ideal route, and at some point, students will have to return to classrooms. The main deterrent to this is safety and health. Most institutions are in the process of setting up protocols to ensure safety. The teaching and support staff must brainstorm and co-create an elaborate set of guidelines which will be stringently followed once we are able to welcome students back to the campus.

Policy and Protocols Related to Safety 

The key to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and other staff in the school campus must begin with strict procedure of entry. Apart from the standard measures of thermal scanning & oxygen level reading, all luggage entering the campus will be thoroughly sanitized. Students will then be taken to a disinfected & sanitised facility where an enhanced and qualified medical team takes over. Students and staff will be administered the COVID-19 test and an overall medical check-up will be done. Students will be allowed to their respective Houses only when the test result is negative. Apart from this, many steps will be initiated to be followed daily to ensure the schools are COVID free. This includes daily sanitization, monitoring personal cleanliness, ensuring the intake of a healthy diet, and monitoring the quality & hygiene of all food. 

The dormitories should be rearranged to maintain five to six feet distance between beds and an adequate number of soap dispensers installed. All washrooms and touchpoints such as desks, doorknobs, taps, floors, and switches must be periodically disinfected. The students should be asked to remove their shoes outside the dormitories. All medicines to be taken by the students will be under the supervision of a House Pastoral Team. To de-congest the main school building and maintain safe distancing conduct the school assembly and daily meals in batches. 

A key factor to children returning to school is the ability to address the concerns and apprehensions of the parents about the safety of their wards. Apart from the physical steps taken to be COVID19 free, the school has initiated various measures to focus on the mental wellbeing of the students. Dedicated time for children and young people to talk about their COVID19 experiences. Allocate more time for children to play and be creative. To ensure and monitor mental wellbeing children must be divided into smaller groups and each child will be monitored by his ‘buddy’. Any emotional turmoil will be reported to their group mentor, who in turn would report it to the assigned teacher. Increase the number of counsellors for students. 

Education is a lot more than just academics, it is about the child’s overall development. The value proposition is a blend of tradition, modern education techniques with a large menu of social and extracurricular activities. The school is also the nurturing ground to forge life-long relationships. When schools shall re-open, the staff must action a multi-pronged plan. In a COVID situation, contact sports like football or hockey cannot be permitted. Students will be encouraged to explore and write about parts of the school campus that have not been frequented. 

Activities like playing with clay, photography, designing a House T-shirt will be initiated. It should be made mandatory for children to attend physical training/yoga sessions on a daily basis or as per schedule. Movies/videos on topics like friendship, sharing, unity is strength, integrity can be shown.  

At a residential school, safety protocol is not a destination but a continuous process. As we go along, we will continuously add more measures. Given the current scenario, residential schools can offer a much safer alternative to day schools as the environment can be controlled to a very large extent. In a day school, there are multiple issues on which the school cannot have control. The simple fact in day schools that students and staff will move in and out of the campus every day and will have multiple touchpoints with external factors increases the risk of exposure.   

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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