How are our teachers doing?


WONG Chun Wai’s On the Beat column, “Catch-22 a-calling” (Sunday Star, Oct 4; online at bit.ly/star_catch) evokes a sense of dire urgency in tackling the newly resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.

Are we in the midst of a second wave? Yes, it looks that way to me. Just look at the numbers: 82 cases on Sept 26 to 317 cases on Oct 3 – that’s a huge increase!

Much of this has to do with the movement of people between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, it seems, as well the cluster in Kedah.

My main worry is that the authorities do not seem to be on the same page when it comes to tackling the issue: Penang has closed some schools but Selangor, which is experiencing a spike, has taken a different approach, which is of real concern.

As Wong rightly pointed out, this virus has returned with a vengeance and it’s not about to leave our shores soon.

Our frontliners from the Health Ministry and others clearly did what it took to keep this dangerous virus at bay before but this is a virus that seems to be continuously “changing tactics” and the strikes keep coming unabated.

Our deeper concern should be schoolchildren, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Once the virus hits these groups, the toll will be high. We had better be safe than sorry.

As one school reported recently, already some students are struggling with depression, which if left unchecked may lead to suicidal thoughts. This is the last thing we need in our society.

Students aside, I wish to also highlight the mental well-being of our teachers, who will be equally under stress should another lockdown come our way.

According to a survey commissioned by an education group in Britain (as reported by the BBC on Sept 17), 52% of teachers reported a decline in mental health at the start of the pandemic. The report on the survey found that the pandemic’s disruption “set us back by six months”, and during the lockdown, teachers felt unsupported and under-appreciated.

The study also noted that senior leaders in the education sector claimed that there was a lack of timely intervention by the authorities in addressing some of the issues faced by teachers.

I think Malaysia should take a leaf from this study and focus some attention on our teachers. The time is ripe for the Education Ministry to commission a similar study to scrutinise the impact of the pandemic on our teachers. Let’s not wait – “We cannot control the wind but we can adjust the sails.”

MICHAEL S. ANTHONY

Educator

Shah Alam

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