An A-plus effort in putting safety first

Back in form: Students seen returning to their dormitory in Batu Buruk, Terengganu, yesterday, to begin a new school term today. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Schools are not taking any chances with safety as their exam candidate students return for face-to-face classes today while Covid-19 cases remain sky high.

These students will be sitting for the 2020 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia, Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia and Diploma Vokasional Malaysia as well as other international level exams certified by the ministry from next month onwards.

Stringent standard operating procedures have been put in place to ensure the safety of the students.

While the number of teaching staff is being kept down, some schools have asked teachers who are not teaching the exam candidates to help monitor SOP compliance.

A secondary school teacher who wanted to be known as Sri said only 18 out of the school’s 67 teachers will be present to teach and assist in monitoring the students today.

The timetable, he told The Star, had also been arranged so that fewer subjects are taught per day, allowing more time for revision and is not taxing on teachers.

“We are using the same SOP adopted last year (when schools opened) and this time, we were better prepared for it, ” said Sri.

The teacher from Subang Jaya also said teachers have been coming in on rotation over the past week to clean the classrooms and arrange the desks.

“There is also a comprehensive yet workable (SOP) plan that adheres closely to the guidelines provided by the Education Ministry last year, and our senior assistant of student affairs had briefed us on the school’s first day operations, ” he said, referring to the ministry’s 34-page detailed school reopening management guidelines.

Sri said the plan covers everything from the time the student steps into the school until they leave.

“Honestly, I think teachers and school administrators have done their very best. The last thing we would want now is an outbreak or a new cluster due to school reopening, ” he added.

A science teacher from Kedah, Norhailmi Abdul Mutalib, said teachers in his school have been returning in small batches to clean the school, ensure all the facilities are in good condition and place space markers as part of physical distancing measures.

“Our principal advised us to stay positive, remain motivated and to do our best to welcome back the candidates, ” he said.

He added that all Form Five teachers will return to teach with some teachers also returning to help run and monitor the SOPs in place.

“Other teachers will continue teaching from home, ” said Norhailmi, adding that this will differ from school to school.

The teacher from SMK Jerlun, Kedah, said they are also adhering to the SOP set by the Education Ministry last year with some extra precautions thrown in.

For example, he said, the parent-teacher association (PTA) has been roped in to keep in touch with the students and check up on their mental and physical health.

National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said teachers nationwide have had numerous staff meetings and subject matter meetings to prepare for this “big day”.

Tan said schools have planned timetables well as they did not receive any complaints from their members regarding this matter.

“Careful planning is needed so that no one teacher is overloaded with face-to-face and home-based learning work.

“We strongly believe that the SPM students will come back in droves as the exam concerns their future. Teachers too will make the necessary adjustments to prepare their candidates well, ” he added.

Meanwhile, parent groups are calling for candidates to be given the option to attend school due to safety concerns.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said candidates should not be reprimanded for being absent.

She added that parents were very cautious about sending their children back to school despite reassurances from the government.

“They are also aggrieved thatwhen school re-opened for two months last year before abruptlyclosing, the SOPs were not closely adhered to by teachers, ” she said.

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