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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Reopening of schools: Between worry and relief


The reopening of schools was hotly debated online after the Education Ministry announced physical classroom sessions will take place effective March 1.

Social media platforms were inundated with responses, reactions, and queries by many, especially parents.

A poll carried out by Bernama on its official Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages offered netizens the opportunity to state their views and suggestions following the ministry’s latest announcement.

Viewers were asked to pick whether they felt ‘relieved’, ‘worried’, or ‘unsure’ about it.

Of the 905 who voted on Twitter, 43.2 percent were 'worried', while 33 percent were ‘unsure’, and only 23.8 percent felt ‘relieved’ about school reopening.

About 681 who responded to the poll Instagram said they were ‘worried’ while 490 others felt ‘relieved’ to be able to send children back to school.

Chief among their concerns was the financial burden associated with preparing children to return to school. 

“Perhaps schools can relax certain requirements such as not making school uniforms compulsory for the time being, to give leeway to struggling parents to make the necessary preparation. Just as long as students are neatly attired, decent, and wearing masks,” @sufryna.isz wrote.

Another Instagram user @QueQaseh said many parents are also feeling the pinch from having spent a lot of money buying gadgets to assist students for online classes at home.

“Decisions keep changing… just after spending money to buy gadgets for the children (not just one child) now they’re opening up the schools. How troublesome for the people,” @QueQaseh wrote.

Even though the Education Ministry has relaxed rules such as not having to wear school uniforms until March 26, the majority who polled were still anxious about the high number of daily Covid-19 cases.

On Facebook, user Farouk Zahir spoke about the aspects of safety and compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) such as physical distancing among the many students in school.

“Cases are still high. Money can be recouped. That’s not the main problem. But can social distancing be implemented? The health and safety of our children must be prioritised,” he said.

Another user on Facebook, Cik Bibi also suggested ways on how students, especially those in primary schools, can better understand and comply with SOPs.

“There must a clear set of SOPs in schools that can be easily understood and followed by the children. For example, during recess, there will be many students (maybe look into having two separate sessions).

“For primary students, they can bring food from home. Easy. Provide soaps in the toilets, tissue paper/hand dryer (toilet cleanliness must be monitored especially after recess), provide hand sanitiser in classrooms and at the main pathways,” she said in a comment.

'Good sign'

On the other hand, netizens who were relieved with the ministry's announcement were of the opinion that students would be more focused in school as opposed to online learning at home.

“Relieved, although there is a tiny bit of concern. But until when should we let our children be educated this way? They need to go back to school to study comfortably and understand easily. Online learning is not enough because parents are not equipped with skills that teachers have,” said Facebook user Siti Nadia.

At the same time, the National Parents-Teacher Associations Consultative Council (PIBGN) said the reopening of schools is a good sign and that parents should not be too worried about it.

Its president, Assoc Prof Mohamad Ali Hasan said the country has begun receiving vaccines and there also appears to be an improvement in the number of Covid-19 cases.

“Hence, all parties need to work together to control the pandemic’s transmission by abiding by the SOPs and maintain discipline, so as to prevent a 'school cluster'.

“To continue school sessions safely, we need to familiarise ourselves with the ‘new normal’ and it begins at home,” he said to Bernama.

On Feb 19, the ministry announced that schools would be reopened on March 1 for preschoolers as well as Standards One and Two, while Standards Three, Four, Five, and Six would start on March 8.

Secondary students will return to school on April 4 for Group A (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu) and April 5 for Group B (other states).


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