Muscat, Oct 28 (ONA) – Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saeedi, Minister of Health, Member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, has said that the Sultanate seeks to obtain Covid-19 vaccine from any globally accredited institution.
He reaffirmed that the vaccine will be procured after checking its safe use on a global level. So far, a total of 1,800,030 (1 million, eight hundred thousand, thirty) doses were reserved for the Sultanate as a first batch, said the minister, hoping that the consignment will be received before the end of this year and that the second batch will be 1,800,000 (1 million, eight hundred thousands) doses.
“We hope to vaccinate about 60% of citizens and residents so that we could attain total immunity in the community,” said Dr. Ahmed.
The minister made the statement during the 18th press conference held by the Supreme Committee since the outbreak of the pandemic, held at the Ministry of Education today.
The minister deplored the “continuous holding of undercover weddings and gatherings held in closed areas”, describing that as a blatant violation of instructions issued by the Supreme Committee. This type of negative behavior undermined the efforts of the health sector very seriously, said Dr. Ahmed, noting that nighttime lockdown yielded positive results, and so did all the measures undertaken by the Supreme Committee whose decisions are well-studied and do not merely seek to chastise, but to deter such violators.
In other comments, he said that 80% of cases of infection are individually-driven within society, while only 20% occur are caused (as a result of negligence) in establishments.
“To revert back to normal life, we have to stick to precautionary measures,” said the minister, noting that the Supreme Committee reached a reasoning that the use of fingerprint systems to prove attendance at the workplace should not cause the spread of infection provided necessary precautions are undertaken.
On his turn, Dr. Saif bin Salim al Abri, Director-General of Disease Surveillance and Control at the Ministry of Health, said that studies provide total and partial lockdown periods have had direct impact on the decline of infection cases. The periods of lockdown were aimed at protecting the health sector so that it could accommodate existing cases at hospitals and intensive care units, he added.
Dr. Saif pointed out that the main cause of the current upward trend in death cases is the fact that these numbers reflect pre-lockdown periods. “Actual lockdown period results will show only next week and we will observe a decline in number of deaths,” said Dr. Saif.
He explained that only 6% cases at border checkpoints test positive to Covid-19. The Ministry of Health will follow a system of epidemic detection inside schools and that health workers will be trained to carry out the programme, in which students will be checked right from the moment they leave their homes to the time they return
Meanwhile, Dr. Abdullah bin Khamis Ambusaidi, Education Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Education, gave a statement in which he outlined the salient features of the educational system for the school year, which will begin thins Sunday. The statement points out the following:
1-Government Schools Operating System (SOS):
The Ministry of Education has approved the SOS as follows:
(A) Endorsing Blended Learning approach for general education diploma in all schools of the Sultanate. The schools will be operated according to the density of their students, either daily or by dividing the students in two groups, so that the first group attends classes in the premises one week, while the second group attends the next week, with full commitment to precautionary measures set in the Health Protocol.
(B) Online education approach for classes 1-11 in high density schools where epidemiological data point to inability to implement Blended Learning.
(C) Endorsing either direct daily attendance or Blended Learning, according to epidemiological data in low-density residential quarters and in areas where internet cover is not sufficient. The educational directorates have been given discretion to determine which system fits best in their governorates, while at the same time coordinating with specialists at the Ministry of Health.
In a bid to offer effective online education and resolving internet-related problems, the Ministry of Education is pressing ahead with its programme to consolidate the service in coordination with telecom companies.
The Ministry has also prepared a parallel programme to ease pressure on the internet and, accordingly, dedicated the period 11 am to 2 pm to Classes 1-4, and the period 8 am to 11 am to classes 5-11. As for Class 12 students, the programme will begin at 8 am and continue till 2 pm. Schools may coordinate with their respective educational directorates to address any challenges.
2. Private Schools Operating System:
It has been decided that private schools and international schools will operate as follows:
(A) Endorse the Blended Learning approach, while at the same time achieving 50%-50% or 33%-33%-33% attendance for classes 1-11, depending on capabilities, while at the same time sticking to precautionary measures.
(B) As for Class 12, a 100% attendance shall be implemented at a one-week-on and one-week-off rate, according to the approved study plan.
(C) If a guardian wishes to stick only to distance learning from Class 1 to Class 12 for fear of infection, he/she should submit an application and an undertaking. In case the guardian’s private school cannot provide the service, he/she will be given freedom to shift to another private school that can provide the service.
(D) A 100% online scenario can be implemented for classes 1-11 if a school if fully equipped to provide the service and provide all necessary facilities.
(E) As for pre-schools (Holy Quran schools, kindergartens), they have to operate online only. If no electronic facilities are available in such schools/classes, they have to cease operating.
3- Electronic Content:
The Ministry has finalized steps to set up its educational platform for classes 1-4 and Google Classroom for classes 5-12, which include synchronized and non-synchronized content. The Ministry also managed to raise the capacity of online teaching among its teaching and administrative staff. It also conducted on-air lessons in recent years via Oman Mubashir TV channel for class 12 and operated a cultural channel (Oman Al Thaqafiya) for class 4 and classes from 9-11.
4- Applying a Student
The Ministry has endorsed a mechanism of assessment that fits with the online education system for different educational stages as follows:
(A) Classes 1-4 will be assessed as normal in a 100% method described in the educational platform.
(B) Classes 5-9 will be assessed continuously at school level as set for every item of assessment (60% items + 40% items), along with Year End examinations, except individual skills, technical skills and life skills, which will be treated according to the method of “100% ongoing assessment”.
(C) Classes 10-11 will undergo ongoing assessment at school level and in accordance with the prescribed percentages for each item of assessment (50% items + 50% items), along with Year End examinations, except individual skills, technical skills and life skills, which will be treated according to the method of “100% ongoing assessment”.
(D) Class 12 students will undergo ongoing assessment at school level in accordance with prescribed percentages set for each item of assessment (40% items, 60% items), plus Year End examinations, except individual skills and technical skills for which assessment will be accorded 70%, plus 30% in Year End exams. As for German and French languages, marks will be accorded 60% from ongoing assessment and 40% from Year End exams.
The greatest majority (as many as 95%) of education supervisors, administrative and teaching staff have received training. Women working as teachers in Cycle One are being trained, while 85% of female teachers in Cycle Two have received training. The remaining segment is scheduled to be trained by next month in a manner that does not affect their teaching responsibilities. Training of Special Education teachers tasked with teaching pupils belong to the three segments of disabilities (impaired hearing, vision and mental abilities) will be completed this week.
Preliminary results show that there is good response among teachers willing to practice online teaching. In the coming period, the Ministry of Education will offer technical support and cater to other needs of teachers to facilitate their mission.
In fact, technical support will be an ongoing feature of Blended Learning and distance learning. The Ministry has teams of supervisors and technicians based in its general diwan (headquarters) and in educational directorates to lend support as needed in the areas of educational planning, self-acquisition, electronic education, follow-up and interaction between the schools and the local community. The teams can perform all their tasks electronically. They can monitor classes, the works of teachers, accomplishment of curricula and filing of performance reports.
The Ministry urges school staff and parents to continue to update themselves about documents explaining the mechanisms of Blended Learning from the Educational Portal of Sultanate of Oman.
Dr. Abdullah Ambusaidi pointed out that 82% of the schools will implement online education, 10% Blended Learning and 7% full attendance at the school. The Ministry will continue to monitor the situation and make any changes where and when deemed necessary, he added.
He explained that the Ministry allowed educational directorates in governorates to make changes to real-time/synchronized education provided their take into account the time of parents. He laid emphasis on family support during synchronized education. He noted that the Ministry will study the issue of contracts of school bus drivers and janitors and provide a moderated solution that addresses the concerns of all.
If cases of infection are detected in any school, the classroom or the whole school will be closed and the students will be shifted from Blended Learning to full online education, said the Under-Secretary.
He added that the Ministry drafted a set of regulations for the resumption of operation of schools through the efforts of three committees from the Ministry and the directorates general of education. The overall aim is to determine how to implement Blended Learning and online education, with options to have in-school committees to follow up the implementation of the regulations.
On his turn, Dr. Ali bin Humaid al Jahwari, Director-General of the Educational Directorate in Muscat, said that the Ministry published a guide for precautionary measures to be undertaken inside schools and onboard of buses which, according to the guide should carry not more than their usual load.
Al Jahwari pointed out that classes 11 and 12 may download the educational platform app in their Android or Apple devices and thereby spare themselves the need to buy laptops. From classes 5 to 10, the study subject of IT will be accorded two classes per month and, during these classes, school children in families may take turns using home computers, said al Jahwari, adding that in classes 1 – 4, emphasis will be laid on theoretical content in the IT study subject.
Classes 11 and 12 do not need laptops and they can access the portal directly from the mobile phones. The general framework of resumption of school operation provided options for the re-scheduling of the school timetable so that during non-sync classes teachers may follow up their students from home.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nassir bin Abdullah al Abri, Director of Information Technology at the Ministry of Education, said the new system offers a host of services to overcome the challenges facing students. These include the availability of electronic library in which students find their lessons, as well as Youtube channels through which students can follow up, he added.
Al Abri reaffirmed that all platforms endorsed by the Ministry can be accessed from all computer systems. The Ministry envisaged an alternative scenario for ensuring the endorsement of the educational content as there might be a problem in having enough computers in the local market, said Al Abri (without elaborating on the envisaged alternative).
In his turn, Omar bin Abdullah al Qatabi, Senior Executive Director at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, said that, through coordination with the Ministry of Social Development, telecom firms will offer families belonging to the Social Security Scheme computers whose prices range between RO 90 and RO 500 to be paid in 12-month instalments.
Al Qatabi referred to a government plan to provide broadband services in all parts of the Sultanate, with different initiatives mooted for covering rural areas through the construction of 325 stations to cover 450 villages. Recently, the government approved a certain sum to cover rural areas through satellites, he added.