Let us take our children home for a weekend


  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

I am sure I am not the only parent to a matriculation programme student who is frustrated by the Education Ministry regulations imposed on these students. Being a responsible Malaysian, I understand that we have to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) in our daily lives nowadays because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but at times these SOPs seem to be causing a lot of unneccesary stress.

Matriculation students nationwide registered and entered their campuses during the first week of August. Initially, they were told that after a month of a supposedly quarantine period, they would be allowed to go home over the three-day National Day holiday weekend (Aug 29-31, 2020; National Day, on Aug 31, is a public holiday). However, a few days before the weekend, the students were informed by the Education Ministry, via their respective matriculation centres, that they would not be allowed to go home.

To make matters worse, parents were not even allowed to meet their children and no physical contact was allowed throughout the whole month; these measures are still ongoing even now.

Naturally, as any concerned parent would, I called up the centre's management to enquire about this matter. They confirmed it and said that they are bound by Education Ministry rules. After weeks of no updates, I called the ministry, and the person I spoke to said the ministry is bound by Health Ministry and National Security Council decisions. But when I called those two bodies, both said that it is up to the Education Ministry to set up the guidelines.

This passing-the-buck culture is tiring and is confusing us citizens.

It has been a month since the National Day holiday and the Education Ministry has yet to inform matriculation centres about updated regulations. I checked its portal this morning (Sept 28, 2020) and there were no updates on this matter.

Why this bothers me and other parents greatly is because these students are locked in on campus grounds with no proper justification. Students and parents alike are puzzled why, say, students from foundation centres in public universities and polytechnics are allowed to return home every weekend?

When I called up the Education Ministry with this question, the officer's only answer was because those institutions are managed by the Higher Education Ministry.

I find that an unreasonable justification. Students managed by the the Higher Education Ministry are just as susceptible to Covid-19 as matriculation students. If they can return home every weekend, why can't matriculation students?

Additionally, the lockdown is only applicable to students. Staff who live on campus, including family members, are allowed to freely enter and leave the campus. Are they not susceptible to the disease also?

This is unfair and is pretty much an example of selective application of the regulation. If the guideline is meant to protect students on campus, then the lockdown should apply to everyone, including staff and their family members.

This lockdown is affecting the mental health of matriculation students. They have not been allowed to meet their parents for two months now. And the situation is made worse by the fact that there are no updates from the Education Ministry or any other relevant body, leaving students and parents in the dark.

No media outlet seems to have picked up on this matter, as I have yet to see any news reports on it.

Other parents I talked to all complained about their children's mental health being affected. Their motivation to study has also decreased, aggravated by the horrible wifi connection which hampers online assignments and classes often. (The bad wifi connection has been an ongoing issue in matriculation centres nationwide, according to the centre's staff.)

We suffering parents just need a solid update on when our children will be allowed to return home. Is the Education Ministry going to keep them on campus until the recovery movement control order period ends on Dec 31, 2020? If yes, then it is despicably unfair on the students.

Perhaps the Education Ministry could seek advice from the Higher Education Ministry on the guidelines issued by the latter in allowing students to return home on weekends. If that ministry can do so, then rationally there should be no reason why the Education Ministry cannot do so, right?

At the same time, the Education Ministry should take note of the immense stress faced by the students by visiting the centres and asking the students about the state of their mental health. The students might actually have useful suggestions that the ministry could implement.

I understand that Covid-19 cases seem to be on the rise again, and as parents, none of us want our children to fall sick. So if proper guidelines are issued, we will do our best to adhere to them as long as we can take our kids home even for a short weekend.

FRUSTRATED PARENT

Kajang, Selangor

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