Schools cannot be shut forever

Bringing them back: Radzi said the decision to reopen schools took into account the differing educational needs and capabilities of students from various socioeconomic backgrounds. – Filepic

The decision to reopen schools amid a pandemic is not an easy one to make.

It is a delicate balancing act to ensure that all students have access to a quality education without compromising on their health and safety.

Much has been said and debated over the matter, including the implementation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

As new daily Covid-19 cases remain high, parents are cautious about having their children back in school.

In view of this, Education Minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin said during the updated SOPs announcement on Sept 12 that ultimately, the decision to send children back to school will be in the hands of the parents.

They must, however, give a letter to the school explaining their children’s absence, he said, while school authorities have been instructed not to take disciplinary action, or issue warning letters to these students.

The new and more comprehensive SOPs, he assured, were drafted after obtaining input from all stakeholders.These included teachers, parents, students, experts and more importantly, the Health Ministry and the National Security Council.

The latest SOPs take new Covid-19 variants into account, in addition to the autonomy given to parents.

Among the steps to be taken includes having only 50% of the school’s enrolment present at any one time by dividing students in all classes into two groups, with half attending school at a given time and the other half undergoing home-based teaching and learning (PdPR).Students will also attend school on a weekly rotation, he said, adding that this model will carry on as the ministry continues to monitor the Covid-19 situation in the country, and may change the arrangement based on the situation.

Therefore, embracing these changes and learning to live with Covid-19 is important – in fact, even the Health Ministry is looking to categorise Covid-19 as endemic, according to Radzi.

He said the country is moving towards recovery and as people return to their daily lives in the new normal, there are new procedures to follow.

With students losing a substantial amount of their education to the pandemic, he said it’s crucial to bring them back to school.“We cannot continue to let them be like this. It was not easy to find the middle ground but we are confident that with the feedback obtained during our sessions (with stakeholders), this is the best framework that can be used, even if it is not perfect,” he added.The decision to reopen schools, he said, was also made based on the differing educational needs and capabilities of students who come from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Schools were initially targeted to reopen in stages beginning Sept 1, but with mounting pressure from all quarters to postpone it to a later date as new daily cases remained high, Radzi announced Oct 3 as the new chosen date.While there continues to be arguments against the reopening of schools, the minister’s stand is simple: prolonged closure of schools and keeping children away from a holistic learning environment will only cause further damage to their educational progress.

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