PETALING JAYA: Teachers should be vaccinated so that schools remain open, says the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef).
Unicef representative to Malaysia and special representative to Brunei Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar (pic) said that Unicef fully supported the Malaysian Government's decision to reopen schools.
"Unicef welcomes and fully supports the decision to reopen schools in Malaysia. We acknowledge that these are difficult decisions.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on children’s lives, disrupting familiar patterns and impacting their education and mental health.
"The longer children remain out of school, the greater the learning loss and irreversible harm for children," said Dr Rashed in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 23).
He also said that the UN humanitarian agency would provide technical advice as well as other assistance to children from marginalised communities in reopening of the schools come March 1.
The Education Ministry had announced that national primary schools will reopen beginning March 1 while secondary students will return to schools beginning April 4.
Dr Rashed said that it is important for children to return to schools physically as schools are not mere classrooms.
"The school is a microcosm of society, where children can access all sorts of provisions like psychosocial support, nutrition, besides their education. It is a safe space for all children. Schools reopening will allow students to access these services, and to learn, connect and play with their friends again.
"As a priority, teachers and school personnel should be vaccinated against Covid-19 once frontline health workers and high-risk populations are vaccinated. This will help protect teachers from the virus, allow them to teach in person, and ultimately keep schools open.
"We are working closely with the Education Ministry to reimagine education, especially for the most marginalised children wherever they are.
"We need to develop and strengthen digital and remote learning, internet connectivity, affordable data and devices, and engagement so that children have the skills they need for the future.
"This is an opportunity for the education system in Malaysia to build back better," said Dr Rashed.
He added that Unicef will support the government with technical advice and co-create solutions to safeguard the future of every child in Malaysia.
"Together with other UN agencies, Unicef has produced a multi-sectoral guide to reopen schools safely," said Dr Rashed.
The framework for reopening schools can be accessed at https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Framework-for-reopening-schools-2020.pdf
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