Varsities stay calm despite late call by ministry

PETALING JAYA: Universities are taking it in their stride following the government’s sudden announcement that they should conduct student registration online for the new semester.

The Higher Education Ministry’s statement came on Friday just as some students started arriving at their campuses for the new semester which begins over the next two weeks.

Those who were already at their universities were allowed to register face-to-face and enter their hostel.

The ministry had also negotiated with airline companies to allow students to reschedule their flights.

Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Hassan Basri Awang Mat Dahan said the ministry’s decision was inevitable in view of the rising number of Covid-19 infections of late.

“Everything was being meticulously planned and we were all shocked when the Covid-19 cases in the country spiked suddenly.

“This is the unpredictable nature of Covid-19 transmission,” he said when contacted.

“Not having the students return (to campus) now is the best move that can be done.

“We can plan all we want but it all depends on the latest information available.”

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) deputy vice-chancellor (academic and international) Prof Dr M. Iqbal Saripan said students who had yet to return to campus were advised not to do so.

However, he said those who needed to use the Internet facilities at their residential colleges could apply for permission to stay on campus.

“Only those who have obtained approval will be allowed back,” he said, adding that those already on the university grounds could remain there.

For the affected students, they are finding ways to cope with their situation.

UPM student Muhammad Adam Salehuddin, 20, said he was excited to head back to campus on Oct 18 but now had to remain at home.

“I saw on Twitter that there were students who had to burn their bus tickets or the rent for their (off-campus) accommodation,” said the second-year veterinary science student.

He said the ministry should compensate those who had bought bus tickets.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia student Fareesha Kamal, 20, said the last-minute announcement was unfair as students had spent a lot of money to return to campus.

Her parents, she said, had even taken leave to send her back to campus.

“As students, we understand the reason the ministry did this but they need to think about the effects on us as well,” she said.

The Malaysian Youth for Education Reform (MYER) Movement said the ministry’s move “has caused severe unintended consequences to university students across Malaysia”.

Although they understood the reason for the ministry’s “suggestion”, they felt that due consideration should be given to students who were left stranded at the universities with no resources to return home.

“The ministry must ensure all students are safe, have a roof over their head, food to eat and are well taken care of, as universities postpone physical intake,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad yesterday apologised for the “nightmare” faced by the affected students.

She said the ministry had immediately consulted the management of higher education institutions, the National Security Council and the Health Ministry when the number of Covid-19 cases shot up.

“I take note of the grievances and complaints of students and their family members following the decision of the higher education institutions to postpone the physical registration.

“I hope the institutions can be fair, considerate and reasonable in managing all matters arising from this delay (to return to campus),” she said in a Facebook post.

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