Consider postponing school reopening, urge parents

PETALING JAYA: Vaccinate students before reopening schools, parents say.

Calling for a postponement of the Oct 3 reopening of schools for states in Phases Two and Three of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), parents took to social media to say that they would not be sending their children to school if Covid-19 cases were still high.

There were also suggestions for home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) to continue until the year-end school holidays.

Sales manager Jacqueline Chew, 42, said the October start date “is just too soon”.

She said she would prefer schools to reopen from November onwards.

This is assuming, she said, that 12- to 17-year-olds begin their vaccination from mid-September.

“As parents, we will only feel safe and be willing to let our kids back in school if they have been vaccinated,” said the mother of a 14-year-old and 12-year-old.

As for those below the age of 12, Chew said they should continue with PdPR until the end of this academic year.

Ahmad Mustafa Mahmud, 45, said he would prefer if his Form Five son only returned to school after being vaccinated.

Until then, he said, he was not sure if the classroom would be safe with the new, more transmissible, variants already in the community.

Ahmad Mustafa also said he hoped the next Education Minister would take into account the vaccination status of exam-year students before allowing them to return to school.

On Sunday, Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin, who stepped down as education minister yesterday, said schools in states under Phases Two and Three of the NRP would reopen in stages from Oct 3 onwards.

Schools in Phase Two would be allowed to open for exam-year students, while schools in Phase Three could open in full, he added.

He said the ministry aimed to create a safe space within school compounds by vaccinating teachers, school staff and students, before allowing students to return for face-to-face lessons.

As at Sunday, Radzi said 92.4% of teachers, 87.9% of administrators and 72.4% of support staff (including security guards, cleaners, canteen staff and transport drivers) had received at least the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin said it was “high time” to reopen schools gradually beginning with exam-year students now that the majority of teachers and school staff had been given their first vaccine dose.

“The majority of parents and students are ready for schools to reopen if the students and teachers have been vaccinated,” he added.

He also said once there were clear indications that schools were safe, they should be opened for the rest of the students with some adjustments made to the academic calendar to allow the syllabus to be completed.

“Since so much time has been lost, I am sure the teachers, parents and students will understand if we need to shorten the year-end holidays,” he said.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said face-to-face learning should proceed as planned.

“In fact, the upcoming holidays should be reduced in order for students to catch up,” she said, adding that PdPR still leaves “much to be desired”.

She also advised the next government to instruct schools to reopen but to give them the autonomy to decide on the best way to conduct teaching and learning.

National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Harry Tan said the date given by the ministry is only for planning purposes and the actual reopening would still depend on the number of Covid-19 cases and the country’s vaccination rate at that time.

However, based on the reported vaccination rates, he said: “We strongly believe that all those targeted to return will have had their shots by then.”

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