Making social distancing work

Sri Murugan: Teaching and learning from home is safer.

SCHOOLS and teachers must be well-equipped before new practices are implemented in a post-MCO schooling system.

The Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said teachers must be better prepared to teach in a new environment as social distancing is going to be the practice moving forward.

New ways and methods of teaching are required, he said, adding that many parents, teachers, and students have reacted positively to the proposal that schools be reopened.

“It has been quite a long absence from school and children are longing to go back to a proper classroom environment where they can better interact with teachers and their classmates.

“But the utmost consideration must be given to the safety and health of all school students before sending them back to schools.”

Raising concern over the disparity where connectivity is concerned, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said telcos should come up with affordable e-learning packages for students.

“It would be good to invest in digital learning and to optimise digital access to narrow the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged students.”

Parents, she said, must ensure that the environment at home is conducive for studying and they should be given the option to keep their children at home until they are assured that the new SOP in schools are being strictly adhered to.

Noor Azimah: It would be good to invest in digital learning.Noor Azimah: It would be good to invest in digital learning.

“Parents must be convinced that letting their children go to school is as safe or even safer than staying home.

“Students should not be reprimanded if they choose to continue to stay home for health reasons.”

Besides implementing new standards and practices, former NUTP secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said hygiene should be introduced as a topic in subjects once schools reopen.

It must be a priority now, he said.

“Parents will be worried once schools reopen as today, the nation is facing a crisis that can only be curbed by good hygiene practices.

“Schools should introduce strict hygiene guidelines for students to follow, ” he said, adding that whatever changes that are to be implemented in the schools must take into account the public’s opinions.

The NUTP, he said, has done a noble job by collecting feedback from teachers.

Their findings should be passed on to all parent-teacher associations as close cooperation is needed for the framework to be effective.

The NUTP’s ‘Post Covid-19 Pandemic Schooling Research Based on Social Distancing Pedagogy’ study research head Dr Mohd Nazri Abdul Rahman said where hygiene is concerned, schools must also ensure that hand sanitisers are readily available and that sinks be placed in strategic locations to allow students to wash their hands with soap frequently.

Siva Subramaniam: Hygiene should be introduced as a topic.Siva Subramaniam: Hygiene should be introduced as a topic.

Laboratories and workshops must be cleaned from time to time, he added.

Mohd Nazri, a Universiti Malaya department of Educational Psychology and Counseling senior lecturer, also said that experts engaged for the study recommended schools create a screening app to identify and report sick students.

“Parents should check their children’s temperature at home and if their children are showing flu-like symptoms, they should fill out a questionnaire.

“The app, which should be accessible via smartphones and computers, can then process the information to see whether the child is fit to go to school.

“This provides for early intervention as teachers are worried that temperature screening at the school gate would be too late.”

At the moment, English language teacher S. Sri Murugan feels that teaching and learning from home is safer.

“How will schools split classes and how are they going to ensure the prevention of transmission from carriers who show no Covid-19 symptoms?

“Online learning should continue until it is safe to reopen schools.

“What we have done online so far shows that we can work from home and ensure students’ safety, ” he said, adding that schools should encourage students to bring their own food and once they are done, dispose of the wrapping in bins which should be placed outside every class.

“Canteens are not ready for social distancing as the space is limited.”

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said schools with a big student population but limited classrooms and manpower will face an enormous task to carry out social distancing.

“Once a solution can be found with the Form Five and Form Six students, then we can consider opening up for the other Forms and Upper Primary students, followed by Lower Primary, ” he said, while calling on the government to allocate urgent funds so that schools can implement the necessary measures post-MCO.

Former Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan called for the layout in schools to be re-imagined.

This, he said, is necessary to ensure a minimal amount of students are present any one time.

Sri Murugan: Teaching and learning from home is safer.Sri Murugan: Teaching and learning from home is safer.

“Big changes and transformations may be the only viable option when confronting the new realities of schooling for our students.

“There are no easy answers but I’m confident the Education Ministry will thoroughly explore all options and come up with best practises to protect our children, ” he said, stressing that parents play just as important a role as schools.

Parents must explain to their children the importance of social distancing not only in school, but everywhere outside the home.

Proper hygiene practices such as regular hand washing and no touching of the face must be strongly impressed upon them.

“Teachers too have to be vigilant to ensure that all rules and regulations to combat the spread of disease are observed.

“They must keep an eye out for symptoms of the disease as early detection followed by immediate action can curb the spread, ” said Kamalanathan, who is also the MIC education bureau chairman.

Parent Nur Fairuz Mahusin said guidelines post-MCO should cover the travelling mode of students, particularly those who take public transport.

The authorities, she said, must consider all details before implementing more “new norms” in schools.

Jasmin Choy, an administrator of Facebook parenting group Malaysia Education Info, said teachers should adopt a gentle approach when ensuring that students follow the social distancing rules.

The mother-of-two suggested that the class teacher adopt a creative approach by telling their students stories about victims from all over the world and how the disease affects children of all ages.

Through this daily story time sessions, children can also learn about being a responsible member of the community.

“This is the best time to teach youngsters about being health savvy and mindful of those around them.”

While SMK Bukit Bandaraya, Kuala Lumpur student Aiman Ba’trisyia Munir Kasman, 17, can’t wait to return to school, she said the most important aspect in reopening schools is for students, teachers and staff to follow social distancing practices and systematic procedures to avoid interaction through touch. “It is very hard for me to do projects at home without a printer as most of my teachers ask us to print stuff.

“It’s much easier to learn in school than learning at home, ” she said.

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