‘New norm’ when schools reopen

PETALING JAYA: Programmes requiring large numbers of students to assemble in one place should be avoided when schools reopen, to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, says teachers.

Among the events that should be temporarily halted are school assemblies along with celebrations such as Teachers Day or retirement ceremonies.

A teacher, who wanted to be known only as Prema, said any important announcements can be made over the public announcement (PA) system.

“Even co-curricular activities like sports and cross-country races should be avoided as it would involve lots of crowds, ” she continued.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said measures will be put in place once schools reopen to ensure health and safety.

The “School Management Post-MCO” guide must be strictly followed by all schools, teachers and parents, he said.

He added the guidelines, which have yet to be finalised, will include social distancing, to ensure everyone remains at a safe one-meter distance from each other.

For example, Radzi said in order to maintain social distancing in a class of 35 students, the class will either be moved to an empty hall or be split in two.

However, the ministry is still studying the methods to use as there needs to be enough teachers if the number of classes are doubled or even tripled.

He said that this is one reason the ministry has chosen to start with only allowing the Form Five and Upper Six students to return to school.

Prema, who teaches in a Form Six College, said their classes are relatively small.

“Around 25 to 30 students. So it shouldn’t be a problem to fit all of them inside one classroom, ” she continued.

She suggested that resource centres and science laboratories be utilised as classroom space as well.

Another teacher, Jamilah, said that maintaining social distancing should not be a problem as only Form Five and Upper Six students will return to school first.

She agreed with Dr Mohd Radzi’s suggestion that classes could be split in two until it was safe.

She added that manpower should not be a problem as there are enough teachers available since only two forms will be attending school.

Saranya, who teaches in Kuala Lumpur, said it would be better to keep students together and not split the class into two.

This is to make it easier for teachers to teach, she said, adding that there is already a shortage of teachers for certain subjects.

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said it is going to be very difficult to maintain social distancing once schools reopen and the guidelines are issued.

He said the minister’s suggestion to split classes into smaller segments will be problematic as not all schools will have enough rooms to accommodate the students.

Siva said that if these students go back to school, they should wear gloves and masks at all times. National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan said teachers are currently not trained on how to ensure social distancing in a normal classroom setting.

The “new norm” will pose great challenges to teachers and students.

“Detailed guidelines have to be given to teachers on how to conduct lessons in the new norm, ” he added.

Tan said that the ministry should engage with NUTP to discuss the best ways to deal with this situation.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the guidelines must contain the most effective ways to maintain hygiene and crowd control to ensure there will not be any spread of infection.

She added that the guidelines must be made public by the Education Ministry.

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covid-19 , students , schools , social distancing


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