KUALA LUMPUR: Associations representing private colleges support the 10-day quarantine being imposed on foreign students arriving from SARS-affected countries but are unhappy that the institutions have to bear all expenses incurred.
Both the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) and National Association of Private Higher Educational Institutions (Napei) said they would like to discuss the matter with the National Committee on SARS, as they had not been consulted earlier.
“We only learned about this directive through the media. Colleges should have been consulted instead of just being informed that we have to bear the expenses,” Mapcu president Tengku Shamsul Bahrain said yesterday after attending the opening of the Mapcu-Study Malaysia Information Day for school counsellors.
Tengku Shamsul said he hoped the committee and associations representing private institutions of higher learning would be able to meet soon to come up with a better plan.
The committee decided on Monday that all foreign students and workers arriving in the country from yesterday would be subjected to a 10-day quarantine order, with their institution or employer having to bear the expenses.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng had said the Education Ministry would have to inform all Malaysian consulate offices in the affected countries of the new requirement.
Napei president Dr Mohd Talha Alithamby said it would be unfair to impose an additional fee on foreign students to cover the cost of being quarantined, as this item was not included in the schedule of expenses provided to them.
“The students arriving in the next few days are not going to be prepared,” he said.
He also pointed out that a major logistical problem would arise in cases where colleges did not have on-campus accommodation.
“How are we expected to find a place to quarantine these students?” he said.
Dr Mohd Talha proposed that central quarantine areas be set up instead at the country’s three entry points – in Johor Baru, here and Penang to house these students.
“This will be more feasible. Otherwise, colleges will not only have to source for accommodation but also find people to police the students and feed them,” he said.
A private college operator said he was shocked to learn that only foreign students and workers were to be placed under quarantine.
“Are tourists, businessmen and other people from those countries not susceptible to SARS?” he said.
The Health Ministry, he added, should review the directive, considering that private colleges had not been consulted.
When asked at the ministry's daily SARS briefing yesterday if the Government would provide assistance to private colleges to implement the quarantine order, Chua said the committee had not discussed this.
“Employers are able to provide accommodation for their workers, and private institutions should be able to follow accordingly,” he said.
He added that the institutions should protect their own staff, local students and students from non-affected countries.