Safety first when schools reopen

PETALING JAYA: Educators and experts want heat detection tools installed at school entrances and in classrooms.

According to a recent online survey by the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP), almost all of the 10,487 respondents also want schools to ensure a one-metre distance between teachers and students and to prevent the sharing of equipment such as textbooks and stationery.

NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan (pic) said 90% of the respondents wanted the Health Ministry’s standard operating procedure (SOP) to be strictly implemented in schools.

“Almost all – or 98% – said that post-Covid-19, schools must emphasise the importance of safety, hygiene and health.

“Every student, teacher and staff member must be required to wear a face mask provided by the school and parent-teacher associations (PTA).

“And schools must provide hand sanitiser and soap in classrooms, toilets and strategic locations within the school,” he said, adding that the survey was part of the union’s ongoing research into pedagogy for social distancing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Respondents also agreed on the need to limit the number of students in a class to only 10 to 15, or to use school halls for teaching sessions that had more than 35 students, he added.

Recess should be carried out on a rotational basis to ensure that social distancing is practised, 85% of the respondents said.

“The majority also think it is better for parents to provide food for their children to reduce face-to-face interactions between students and canteen operators,” Tan told The Star.

On Monday, Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said social distancing among students within the school compound and during lessons needed to be practised once schools reopened.

He noted that the “School Management Post-MCO” guide would include measures such as splitting classes into two, with the number of students ranging from 16 to 20 each.

Pre-packed food would be served in school canteens to prevent students from congregating, he said during a special interview on Teachers Day on TV3’s Soal Rakyat programme.

He also assured the public that the ministry would give two weeks’ notice before schools reopened, and that it would be limited to Form Five and Form Six students for a start.

Educationist and former NUTP secretary-general Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the opinions of students, parents and teachers should be sought before any of the social distancing methods were implemented.

“The public would want a say in whatever the government decides on, especially regarding education,” he said.

SMK Assunta Petaling Jaya PTA chairman Alan Goh said a “staggered recess” could be a solution, adding that it was important to have prefects and teachers present at recess so that they could monitor the students.

Parent Nur Fairuz Mahusin said the ministry also needed to ensure that canteen operators followed the SOP, especially when preparing pre-packed food for students.

“Post-MCO will pose another set of challenges to all teachers who work so hard for their students.

“The ministry needs to think about all angles before implementing more ‘new norms’ in schools,” she added.

The Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said teachers must be consulted on the new schooling pedagogy when school reopened.

“Special effort must be made by schools to practise good hygiene at all times.

“Students must report to their teachers if they have fever or other flu-like symptoms.

“Students who return to school may need to have their body temperature taken, carry hand sanitisers, wear masks and sanitise their shoes before entering their classrooms,” he said.

MIC education bureau chairman and central working committee member Datuk P. Kamalanathan said guided learning from home should be a permanent fixture.

“More encouragement is needed at a policy and infrastructural level to promote learning platforms,” he said.

He also said the school layouts needed to be remodelled to ensure a minimal number of students at any given time.

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