The 2020-2021 school year started with the eagerness to return to classes, which were interrupted since March, and the fear of the COVID-19 virus spreading amongst the community of students and teaching staff. The call of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health asking students to ‘wash their hands frequently’, prompted us to look into the hygienic conditions of several schools in Kukës and Vlora. The schools we visited lacked running water supply, therefore the cleaning was done using water barrels, while hand washing in such conditions was concerning to say the least.
The preventive measures protocol for containing the novel Coronavirus spread, as well as several public announcements by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education, advised students to abide by the rules and obligations imposed due to the circumstances. Just two days prior to the start of the new school year, the Minister of Health, Ms. Ogerta Manastirliu, through an awareness-raising video, requested students to comply with protocol measures, including the frequent washing of hands.
Moreover, on 10 September, the Minister of Education, Ms. Besa Shahini posted on her Facebook page to remind students to do the same.
However, are schools supplied with running water?
“Faktoje” submitted a request for information to the Ministry of Education, inquiring whether all educational structures, inclusive of pre-school institutions and universities, were supplied with 24-hour running water.
In their reply, the Ministry of Education stated that the responsibility of water supply lies with municipalities.
Following the said reply, “Faktoje” presented further requests for information to several municipalities concerning the number of schools, their water supply and the number of attending students. Kukës Municipality replied as follows:
Vlora Municipality refused to reply on the matter. In order to learn more about the situation, “Faktoje” conducted on-site visits two days before the start of the new school year.
In Kukës, we visited the 9-year schools “Bajram Curri” and “Lidhja e Prizrenit”. The toilet conditions in these schools leave no room for comments.
To the right of the school entrance was the stairway that led to an indoor water tank full of garbage and wastewater.
Students’ toilets were supplied with water just once or twice a day, and they were cleaned using water stored in bottles or barrels.
“Lidhja e Prizrenit” school was faced with the same situation.
“Faktoje” talked to one of the Public Health Specialists in Kukës, Ms. Denisa Duraku, who informed us that 15 to 44-year-olds were those most affected by COVID-19 in the city, and 102 cases had been confirmed since the onset of the pandemic.
According to Ms. Duraku, working groups were established to monitor the situation and to implement all safety protocols.
“As regards potable water, the UKK (Kukës Water Supply and Sewerage Utility) has adopted measures to ensure ongoing running water supply to educational institutions across Kukës Municipality”- Ms. Duraku stated.
After Kukës, we visited three 9-year schools in Vlora, namely “Shkolla e Muzikës”, “Teli Ndini” and “Muço Delo”. Of the three, solely “Shkolla e Muzikës” had running water supply. In the other two, the water used for cleaning was collected in buckets and barrels.
Toilet at “Muço Delo” school
Toilet at “Teli Ndini” school
On 11 September 2020, during a TV interview, Ms. Eugena Tomini, PHI Expert, stated that the safety protocol contains several strict elements.
“All health elements in the protocol must be complied with, otherwise the Health Inspectorate will implement its rigorous monitoring plan as regards hygienic and sanitary conditions for the start of the school year, in addition to having an action plan on anti-Covid measures compliance. Thus, based on the checklist and all of the health protocol elements, the State Health Inspectorate is authorized to close schools down in case of non-compliance”- Ms. Tomini stated.
Based on the information made available to “Faktoje”, none of the visited schools were closed down, despite the lack of minimum hygienic conditions. On the contrary, today they welcomed students, who will be attending school under the current hygiene conditions.