A few days ago, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said that primary and secondary school students are allowed to return to school for face-to-face classes regardless of their vaccination status. This is despite the risk of children being more vulnerable to Covid-19 and that many students aged below 12 years old have yet to be inoculated. Ironically, many of the students who received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine would be allowed to enter the school grounds, and teachers with no immunisation status would still be allowed to enter the school and mingle with their colleagues, with the condition they do not conduct lessons with their pupils.
On the other hand, colleges and universities, with assistance from the Higher Education Ministry, rolled up their sleeves to deny entry for students and staff without jabs. The educational institutions cited the risk of the Delta variant as well as the safety of the students in the campus, should an unvaccinated individual attend lectures with their inoculated counterparts. Medical experts back the decisions of the chancellors of the respective universities to create a safe bubble for the academic community, with harsh punishments should any unvaxxed individual violate the standard operating procedures (SOPs) by entering the campus, warning that the health and safety of all staff and students cannot be compromised.
Dr Mah added that all categories of primary and secondary students can attend physical classes in schools simply because there is no reason that the students should be stopped from learning in the classroom. He said that the right of an individual to education is much more important in order to nurture future talent in this country. However, the script takes a new twist in tertiary education, with various health practitioners presenting facts and figures to back the decision of the universities and colleges in imposing this measure. With many reasons displayed, private tertiary educational institutions stood their ground to bar students without a vaccination certificate from stepping foot on campus.
As a university student, I feel disheartened to see the imposition of double standards on SOP compliance. I have the eagerness to learn and am excited to return to the physical class but cannot do so as I am unvaccinated.
However, in order for Malaysia to bounce back from the pandemic, the SOPs need to remain consistent across the board to ensure that loopholes can be closed. It is also more traumatising to see young pupils being exposed to the virus, with the possibility of them spreading the virus to their family members, especially if they have elderly relatives living with them. Although the education sector is under the purview of two different ministers, nevertheless the SOPs being introduced and formulated should be consistent in order to ensure that every student receives quality education and prevent viral outbreaks in educational institutions.
LAU WEI YIANG