IT’S been three long months but the sounds of laughter and excited chatter can again be heard in secondary schools across the country.
Although Forms Five and Six students are back in school to resume face-to-face lessons, the canteens have remained relatively quiet since June 24 as students are not allowed to eat there.
A space that used to be packed with hungry students is now quiet, as students line up to purchase their meals.
The tables are lined with packed food but the chairs remain empty.
Teachers are there to make sure that the students maintain social distancing while canteen operators hastily collect money and distribute the food and drinks.
Students who do not bring food from home can purchase food from the canteen but they have to head straight back to class to eat at their desks.
Some of these students now bring food from home, perhaps wary of eating outside food.
The Association of School Canteen Operators secretary Siti Normah Md Desa said its members are not earning enough to run the canteen.
“We do not need to pay rent for six months but we still have utility bills and other overhead costs to bear,” she told StarEdu.
As an example, appliances have to be turned on and now with students returning, so must the lights.
“This needs to happen even if it’s only 20 instead of 200 students coming to the canteen.”
All food and drinks have to be packed in takeaway containers, adding to the escalating costs.
But canteen operators, she said, have not raised their prices.
A few are lucky to earn a small profit but most are barely even breaking even.
They will have to wait until school fully reopens to do so.
“But we are happy because at least we are still able to generate some income.
“Hopefully the government will provide more aid to canteen operators who have been badly affected by the movement control order,” said Siti Normah. – By REBECCA RAJAENDRAM> MORE STORIES ON PAGE 6
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