A lightweight plastic shield designed by Texas A&M University at Qatar (Tamuq), a Qatar Foundation partner university, could protect students in Qatar’s classrooms from Covid-19.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) are evaluating the Shield Box project, an initiative led by Dr Mohamed Gharib and sponsored by the Office of Engagement at Tamuq, the university said in a statement.
Covid-19 has had a tremendous effect on human daily activities in terms of health and economy, Dr Gharib said, with the education sector being significantly affected by the virus. Schools have been suspended and a significant part of the 2019-2020 academic year was converted into online education to continue student learning while protecting the health and safety of students and teachers.
“Returning students to the classroom is essential as long as extra precautions are taken to protect students from infection. Any precaution action would reduce the chances of infection transfer between students in the school,” the Tamuq statement noted.
Led by Dr Gharib, the low-cost shield box can be mounted on student desks in Qatar’s classrooms to protect students while they are at their desks. The shield boxes are made of lightweight plastic sheets that have been cut to the specific dimensions of student desks at various schools.
Predetermined folding lines are engraved in the plastic sheet so that teachers and students can fold and unfold the boxes to move from one location to another if needed. The shield box’s clear solid walls prevent the transfer of any droplets through the material, and the plastic is easily cleaned and sanitised using standard cleaning materials.
The shield box concept has already been applied in some countries where high populations exist, Dr Gharib said. The Qatar version of the shield box is customised to fit to desks in Qatar schools and can be made from local resources. A set of shield boxes has been installed in an independent school for evaluation in co-ordination with the MoEHE, and the MoPH is also evaluating the shield boxes for possible approval to be used in all Qatar schools.
Dr Hassan S Bazzi, associate dean for research and advancement, said the boxes are part of Texas A&M at Qatar’s contributions to Qatar’s fight to protect its people from Covid-19.
“As an institution committed to public service, it is our privilege to be able to help protect students in classrooms throughout Qatar from the coronavirus,” Dr Bazzi said. “The fight against Covid-19 is an international endeavour that we all contribute to, and we are proud to partner with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to protect the community here in Qatar.”