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01/10/2021
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Things to consider before reopening schools

Sin Chew Daily

Senior education minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced in mid-September that schools nationwide would reopen in stages in accordance with the national recovery plan beginning October 3.

Due to the continuous changes in NRP phases in various states, many parents begin to feel confused and are not sure whether their children can go back to school next week.

Students in NRP phase 4 states can go back to school on rotational basis from October 17, while only special needs students, preschoolers, exam class secondary school students, second semester Form 6 and students taking international examinations can go back to school in NRP phases 2 and 3 states.

Parents should take note of the notices issued by the school or call up school authorities in order to make arrangements for their children to go back to school, instead of making inquiries on social media. This is because the situation is not the same for different states.

Parents should be well aware that the situation of the pandemic in this country remains serious. This time, parents have been given the full discretion to decide whether they want to send their children back to school. If they decide not to send their children back to school, leave should be applied to the school to avoid any disciplinary action.

That said, according to some of the schools, they will not provide any catch-up lessons in future for students who miss the class. If the students have opted to stay home, they should make up for missed lessons either through self-learning or other ways.

Based on the education ministry’s guideline, schools that are reopening will operate in weekly rotational basis, meaning students in a class will be divided into two halves, where one half of the students will go back to school while the other half carry on with home learning. Parents should first find out from the school how the rotational class works to facilitate the arrangement to send their children back to school, so that students with different needs will be taken care of and no one will miss the opportunity to learn.

Additionally, the senior minister also said a total of 8,259 students had been infected between January 20 and May 7 this year. Even though preventive measures were adopted during that time and not the entire school was infected, that was enough to make some parents hesitant to bring their kids back to school.

It is imperative that the education ministry draw up more stringent SOPs to boost the confidence of students and their parents so that more students are willing to go back to school, including expedited vaccination for students aged 12 and above.

So far only a couple of states are in more advanced stage of youth vaccination, but as more and more states now advancing into third or even fourth phases of NRP, more students will be required to go back to school. As such, the authorities must expedite the youth immunization program in more states.

According to the government, only minority of parents refuse to let their kids go back to school on various reasons, although most students and parents have faith in the vaccines. They know while the vaccines are not 100% effective against the virus, at least they won’t get seriously ill if they happen to get infected.

The authorities and schools should work harder to instill the concept of “living with the virus” and the need for vaccination. Students must be told to take good care of their personal hygiene and strictly adhere to the SOPs so that we can gradually revert back to our old ways of living.

Due to the seriousness of the pandemic, schools have remained close for most parts of 2020 while students go on home learning. Even though home learning can cover most of the curriculum, things like the students’ moral, physical and social development will never be effectively taught online.

In view of this, suspension of classes will indeed cause a major damage to the students’ non-academic development. Already many educators and scholars have voiced up their concerns.

The education ministry says the school reopening this time has been given thorough consideration, but looking deeper, there are still obvious inadequacies in their planning.

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