With the Covid-19 cases climbing higher each day, many parents are doubting the safety of sending their children back to school in September given that those under 18-years-old will not be given their vaccination appointments yet.
Former Education Minister, Dr Maszlee took to his social media recently to question the rationale behind the reopening schools in stages from 1 September onwards and gave suggestions as to how the Education Ministry can conduct the reopening of schools more effectively. He posted a letter titled: What is the Rationale of Opening Schools on the 1 September?
Dr Maszlee’s Letter
Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced on 15 June that schools will be re-opened when the nation steps into Phase Three of the National Recovery Plan that is expected to take place in September and October.
In his letter, Dr Maszlee highlighted that the current Education Ministry took a generalised decision in reopening the schools without presenting scientific data and taking into consideration the differing needs of urban and rural schools.
“I’ve been contacted by educators, management, authorities and parents while also suggesting requirements prior to the reopening of schools nationwide.”
Worrying concerns against the reopening of schools
- The high number of infected cases and death level worries parents as students are not vaccinated.
- Parents, especially those in the B40 category and those who have lost their jobs are troubled as it is costly to prepare their children to go back to school for the remaining two months till the end of the 2021 schooling term.
- There are no proper SOPs based on science and data for the reopening of schools, triggering worry for parents in fear of a repeated mistake like April’s reopening that disrupted the children’s education due to the ministry’s ‘flip flop’ decisions.
- Teachers left questioning at the rush to reopen schools when they have done multiple improvisations to conducting their classes in the last 16 months and the SPM 2020 results clearly show that education can be conducted online.
- Parents questioning the rationale behind the ministry’s decision and if this is a way to stop the distribution programme of 150,000 computers to help poor students.
The former Education Minister then added that teachers and parents can be rational to agree with the reopening of schools if certain requirements and regulations are put into place.
Suggested requirements by Dr Maszlee
- Special SOPs to categorise unvaccinated students, based on science and data.
- Complete vaccination process for all teachers and school staff without exception. The safety and well-being of teachers and school employees must be prioritised in all decisions taken.
- Review vaccination programmes for SPM, STAM, and STPM class students.
- Only allow students with vaccinated (at least the first dosage) family members to attend school to avoid new school clusters.
- The Education Ministry must discuss with NUTP, Kesatuan Guru-Guru Malaysia Barat (KGMMB), Majlis Pengetua Sekolah Malaysia (MPSM), and Gabungan Majlis Guru Besar Malaysia (GMGBM), the parents association, and the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) before making any decision on this issue.
- Implement the reopening of schools in stages with priority given to a) rural schools students first b) followed by schools in the green zone, c) then opening the schools with vaccine recipients that have achieved herd immunity.
- Rotating school schedules also needs to be implemented in addition to stricter SOPs for compact schools. He also suggested alternative education be implemented.
- Students in the lower primary (Standard 1 to Standard 3) can go back to school with stricter SOPs monitored with a small number of students in each class and reduced schooling hours. Increase the time they are outside of class and in the open environment as recommended by medical practitioners.
- To give the power of autonomy to the school to formulate the best decision while taking into consideration the situation of each locality and based on guidance from all stakeholders and also the National Security Council.
In his ending note, he states that the government needs to realise, that the trust deficit of the people towards the Education Ministry is serious and severe. The stress faced by teachers, parents, and students due to the absence of strategic planning and implementation by the Education Ministry is worrisome. This time, the Education Ministry must act smarter, more strategically, and be transparent too. He continued to reinstate that education is not to be politicised and the children’s education is the country’s future and it should be done truthfully and professionally.
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