Covid-19 vaccine: Give priority to teachers to protect students

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Teachers should also be given priority as recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine as they spend the most time with students when schools are in session.

Education expert Dr Ismi Arif Ismail said the earlier announcement was that children and teenagers aged 18 and below would not be given the Covid-19 vaccine for the time being as frontliners and senior citizens would be given priority due their risk in getting infected.

“So, to ensure that children are also protected from the pandemic, teachers need to be given the vaccine as protection for others.

"Besides, teachers and students will be spending considerable time together during school sessions, so it is only appropriate for teachers to be protected to make students feel safe with them," he told Bernama.

Apart from that, he stressed that they (teachers and students) must continue to adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) such as practising physical distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands and avoiding gatherings.

“I would like to remind (everyone) that under any circumstances, the SOP should continue to be complied with and should not be taken lightly even if the vaccine is available. We should have to continue complying with the SOP to prevent any (outbreaks),” he said.

Ismi Arif, who is also the director of the Institute of Social Sciences Studie, Putra Infoport, Universiti Putra Malaysia, said the situation would indirectly remove the fear of parents in sending their children to school.

“... and parents should also be assured that the school has taken safety measures before children are allowed (back in) school," he said.

On Tuesday (Dec 15), United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) executive director Henrietta Fore recommended that teachers be given priority for Covid-19 vaccinations, after frontliners and high-risk groups.

She was reported as saying in New York that the move would ensure efforts for children around the world to continue their learning.

In sharing the same view, National Parent-Teacher Association consultative council president Datuk Mohamad Ali Hasan said believes we’re still not fully prepared to implement the teaching and learning process (PdP) virtually or online.

Apart from that, he said, teachers are also more comfortable holding conventional PdP sessions, face to face with students.

"There are various problems and obstacles for online PdP sessions, including device problems and poor Internet connections – and not all students have adequate facilities, especially in rural areas.

"In fact, there are also students who are not serious in following online learning while teachers cannot fully gauge the extent of their students' understanding of the subject they teach," he said.

Mohamad Ali also described educators as a frontline group because they are fighting for the country's education to regain its momentum.

"Their contribution and role are huge because education is an important sector that shapes the future of the country," he said.

He suggested that teachers, especially those with health problems, working in rural areas or those in overcrowded areas be the vaccine priority group.

Meanwhile, National Union of Teaching Professions Malaysia (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said that the vaccination will provide protection to teachers and enable PdP sessions to commence as soon as possible.

"We found that online home learning sessions have many disadvantages such as insufficient devices or gadgets, Internet network weaknesses, disciplinary problems and student attendance, which cause online PdP sessions to be disrupted.

"The measure will also ensure students do not drop out and school sessions can be reopened soon," he said in a statement.

In this regard, he said, NUTP is requesting special consideration from the government and the Health Ministry for educators to be given priority for Covid-19 vaccinations to improve and strengthen the national education system. – Bernama

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