KUCHING: There was a relief for pupils and parents as the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination resumed under improved conditions in Sarawak, with the Air Pollutant Index (API) dropping below 200 across the state for the first time since the weekend.
By 10am yesterday, Kuching, Samarahan and Sri Aman – which previously saw very unhealthy levels exceeding 200 – registered API readings of 149,122 and 195 respectively.
The 10 remaining stations in the state recorded moderate levels ranging from 53 to 78.
API is classified into good (0-50), moderate (51-100), unhealthy (101-200), very unhealthy (201-300), and hazardous (301 and above) levels.
The UPSR Mathematics paper proceeded as scheduled yesterday, with pupils being given face masks to wear.
At SK Jalan Ong Tiang Swee here, Year Six pupil Siti Nur Farah said wearing the mask did not pose any problems.
“Some of us were already wearing our own masks when the school provided the masks. This is the first time that I have to put on a mask to sit for an exam, but I don’t think it will affect my concentration, ” she said.
“I’m relieved that the haze is not so bad now and that the exam does not have to be postponed.”
A parent who wished to remain anonymous also expressed relief that the haze had lessened and did not disrupt the exam.
“I was worried the last few days that it might be postponed, and my daughter might lose her focus, ” she said.
Although UPSR went on, 409 schools in nine districts from Lundu in the west to Betong in central Sarawak were closed yesterday due to the haze.
The state Education Department said the schools comprised 62 secondary and 347 primary schools, affecting a total of 157,479 students.
The department had issued a directive on Monday that schools in areas with API levels above 200 should be closed immediately, while public examinations would be postponed if the API exceeded 300.
SK Jalan Ong Tiang Swee head, Laela Asenan, said the decision to close the school was made based on the API reading as at 6pm Monday, which was 241 in Kuching.
“We will check the API at 6pm every day to see whether we need to close, and then will inform the district education office of our decision, while class teachers will inform the parents, ” she said.
In Sabah, the state is not likely to be severely affected by the haze due to its distance from Kalimantan and Sumatra, where the fire continues to burn.
Sabah Meteorological Department director Ambun Dindang said there would only be a minor impact here.
“This is because the source of transboundary haze is located in southwestern Borneo, so it is far from Sabah, ” he said.
He said there was no need to worry about being outdoors too much for now unless the API reading reaches unhealthy levels.
A check on the Department of Environment website http://apims.doe.gov.my showed that the API in all parts of Sabah over the past week remain at moderate or good levels.
As at 1.30pm yesterday, the API level in Sabah was recorded to be between good (45) and moderate (62).