Maldives Sees Decrease in Cases, But Is it Time for Colleges to Start Physical Classes?

The number of confirmed cases in the Maldives for the past 10 days have been below 100 and the rate of positive cases to samples taken have fallen below 5%, according to statistics by Health Protection Agency.

During March, the country closed all universities, colleges and training facilities for a period of 14 days, over the COVID-19 outbreak. The announcement came in the wake of the tenth confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country. Since then, colleges have been carrying out online classes for students.

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As for schools, after 3 months of being closed down, they were reopened for ninth graders and above under strict health safety measures in July after a drop in COVID-19 numbers. However, the relaxation of the lockdown measures in Male’ led to a spike in numbers in the weeks that followed, leading to schools being closed once again. Recently, Education Ministry announced that schools in Male’ city will reopen for ninth and tenth graders on 4th October. High School students have been attending physical classes since July.

Maldives National University (MNU) has the most number of people in the country doing further studies. “Online classes are safer during this time. However, when it comes to doing exams online, students face a lot of issues such as slow internet connections. I believe it would be easier for them to do physical exams, but considering the number of students in each class, it is not safe,” says an Economic lecturer in MNU.

What’s the situation in the rest of the world? Many colleges have reopened in the US. In July, Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Harvard Medical School, rightfully predicted that colleges were going to blame students’ behavior for any Covid-19 outbreaks. But the real problem, she said, is poor planning. “Any public health plan that requires radical changes in behavior and perfect compliance is doomed to fail.” 

At some school, students were punished for socializing. At Purdue University, three dozen students were suspended for attending an off-campus party and violating the school’s social-distancing rules. “The question for college campuses becomes how do we support students in having their social needs met, while also staying lower risk,” Marcus explained. “And I don’t think that’s the approach that’s been taken.”

Another reason for the poor reopening of colleges abroad is the lack of planning. Colleges and universities need to be fully prepared. They should have a plan for what happens when a student gets positive and an effective strategy to ensure safety.

If the Maldives is considering to reopen colleges and universities soon, they need to make sure there’s proper planning as a lot of lives are at risk.

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