The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has instructed all public educational establishments to carry out standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent Covid-19 infections when they open the new academic year on January 11.

Classrooms will open on January 12 and close in October. The year will be divided into two semesters with a short vacation from April 6-19 and a long vacation from November 1-30, according to a ministry notice last week.

Minister Hang Chuon Naron said in the announcement it was important for opening ceremony participants to respect a high standard of hygiene and social distancing.

“The opening ceremony of the new academic year will take place on January 11. All schools have to prepare slogans and leaflets to celebrate opening day solemnly. Each school can prepare programmes according to its abilities – large or small. Guardians, parents, school board managers and local community members should join,” he said.

Chuon Naron said all public high schools have to create new sanitation programmes on their campuses and carry out SOPs for schools in line with Covid-19 precautions. This includes abiding by the Ministry of Health guidelines to contain the pandemic.

He said schools should encourage students and staff to bring clean water from their homes for drinking and prepare hand washing sinks with disinfectants like alcohol or gel sanitiser for day-to-day use.

“High schools have to cooperate with their subordinate primary schools to make it possible for students to enrol and study. For Grades 8-12 students, establishments have to cooperate with parents and guardians to get them to school on time,” Chuon Naron said.

He advised each school to assign staff to stand guard during short and long vacations so they can safeguard schools and avoid property damage.

Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (Cita) president Ouk Chhayavy told The Post on November 23 the start of the new academic year usually takes place in November.

“This is not too slow or fast. We all have to accept the truth and take a premature break and admit it is different from previous years,” she said.

The education ministry closed public and private schools at all levels on March 16 due to the pandemic. It later allowed them to reopen in phases after the Covid-19 situation eased, with phase 3 beginning on November 2.

However, schools in Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces were ordered closed for another two weeks following the visit of Covid-19-positive Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto on November 3. They were allowed to resume classes on November 23.

Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post that schools in Phnom Penh and Kandal had consistently carried out safety measures according to the SOPs laid out by the ministry and guidelines set by the health ministry.

“The ministry calls on educational staff, management, teachers, students and all relevant parties to continue to carry out the SOPs laid out by the ministry and the health ministry’s guidance,” he said.