Parents struggle to juggle work and kids


Business as usual: A worker wearing a face mask while cutting grass along the Sungai Buloh Highway in Kuala Lumpur.

Reports by KAREN CHAPMAN, REBECCA RAJAENDRAM, JOSEPH KAOS, EDWARD RAJENDRA, KALAIVANI MURUGASAN, SHEILA SRI PRIYA, MICHELLE TAM, ALLISON LAI

PETALING JAYA: As if the haze is not bad enough, people now have to deal with the haziness over school closures.

The last-minute announcements of schools being shut due to poor air quality have sent parents scrambling to ensure their kids are in good hands during the day.

With little time to make alternative childcare arrangements, many mothers and fathers have to either stay at home with the children or bring them to the workplace.

Neither is an ideal solution and many are wondering why the decision to close schools cannot be made earlier.

A lecturer who wished to be known as Aleena said she had to sneak two of her primary schoolgoing children into her room at her public university yesterday.

The Sabahan, who has settled in Petaling Jaya, has no family members that could help her.

“My boss would not like to see my kids in the office. I have no choice. The closure notice came in the morning while my sons were getting ready for school, ” said Aleena.

Megana Krishnan, a mother of two, including a Year Two pupil, had to work from home yesterday.

She learnt about the school closure notice, sent via WhatsApp by the primary school headmaster, at 6.30am.

Neither her employer nor her husband’s allow parents to bring children to work.

“I asked my boss if I could work from home. My boss replied that I could. I am lucky as I work for a compassionate organisation, ” said Megana from Petaling Jaya, who works in the media industry.

Diane Sandarasagran and her five-year-old son were all geared up to host a birthday party at school yesterday. She missed the closure notice sent by the school in the morning. As a result, she brought her son to school and they had to go back home immediately.

Nicole Yong Fong Yi was among the luckier ones. She has a maid and her mother to help care for her two children.

“Other parents have to send their children to their friends’ houses and some are relying on daycare centres, ” said the language teacher.

Yong, from Subang Jaya, said she has been monitoring the Air Pollutant Index (API) readings since Monday and had prepared herself in case schools closed.

SK Taman Megah Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) chairman Rodney Teoh said parents were only informed in the morning that schools will be closed.

“I think the Education Ministry could do better than this (informing late) rather than cause chaos among parents and transporters. Some were even on the way to school (when they found out), ” he added.

“I remember that in 2015, when API hit 171, schools were already ordered to close, ” he said.

SMK Assunta PTA chairman Alan Goh said the API threshold for school closures should be reduced to 180 instead of 200, as there is no sign of the situation improving any time soon

Edwin Lee said his school teacher wife has seen children staying back at school despite the closure notice.

“The notice came too late and the children couldn’t go home as their parents were at work. There should be better planning, ” he said.

An Education Ministry circular dated Jan 15,2019, states that schools must stop all outdoor activities when the API level reaches 100 and above.

Schools are ordered to be closed immediately if API readings are 200 and above. However, this only applies to students.

They are not required to go to work if the API readings exceed 500.

An API reading from 0 to 50 is categorised as good, 51 to 100 (moderate), 101 to 200 (unhealthy), 201 to 300 (very unhealthy) and above 300 (hazardous).

All government and private schools in Selangor must be closed today and tomorrow.

As at 1pm yesterday (Sept 18), the Education Ministry said 1,484 schools in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sarawak, Negri Sembilan, Penang and Perak involving 1,003,310 students have been closed. The Higher Education Department has advised all tertiary institutions in states with API readings of 200 and more to postpone all lectures as this could affect the staff and students’ health.

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Air Pollutant Index

Highest API Readings

    Select State and Location to view the latest API reading

    Source: Department of Environment, Malaysia