As some EU countries move to start the new school year, the Delta variant spread increasingly across the continent.
The new strain has first emerged in India. It then takes hold in the UK and Portugal, raising concerns over the summer opening.
Thus, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef have demanded that schools must stay open and be made safer for staff and children.
The two organisations have released a joint statement as a new school year gets under way. However, the highly transmissible Delta variant is still dominant in the region.
“We encourage all countries to keep schools open. We also urge all schools to put in place measures to minimise the risk of Covid-19.”
The two organisations said teachers and other school staff must be primary target groups for national vaccination programmes.
They further added that all children aged 12 and over with underlying health conditions should also receive full vaccination.
They also demanded that school environments should remain safer by improving classroom ventilation, reducing class sizes where possible, maintaining physical distancing rules and regularly testing both pupils and staff.
Eight Recommendations for the New School Year
The two organisations announced a set of eight recommendations including ensuring schools were “among the last places to close and the first to reopen”, implementing effective testing, risk mitigation and vaccination strategies, and protecting children’s mental and social wellbeing.
Teachers in the region underlined the importance of the recommendations.
“For almost two years, the words ‘Covid-19’ and ‘online schooling’ have marked our lives,” said Milena Maric, a secondary school maths teacher from Belgrade in Serbia.
“The school system in Serbia adapted rapidly. But pupils lacked continuity, socialising, collaborative work, the sharing of ideas in real time, communication without technology. I know the only way out of this situation is to keep respecting measures preventing the transmission of the virus.”