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Monday, August 30, 2021

Protect students from Covid-19 first, new ministers told

 


The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) has urged Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad and Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin to prioritise the safety of students and academic staff against Covid-19 and address issues they left behind during the previous administration.

Its chairperson Zaharom Nain said the two ministers, who held the same positions until their resignations in former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin's government, have no time to spare to address important matters at hand.

“They need to get up from their 17-18 months of slumber or marathon honeymoon, which proved expensive for the rakyat.

“These two and their ministries must get their act together and not willy nilly announce the reopening of schools and higher education institutions without studying the implications first.

“Their words may be cheap, but human lives are precious,” Zaharom told Malaysiakini.

He said schools and tertiary institutions should not be reopened until everyone involved is vaccinated.

Zaharom added that he disagrees with the assessment by some quarters saying schools in remote areas should be allowed to reopen as they were “untouched” by the pandemic.

“Let us play it extremely safe, given the large numbers still being affected,” he said.

Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad

Plans to reopen schools and higher education institutions in September were postponed over concerns of record-high Covid-19 cases and deaths, as well as the failure to start vaccinations for those under 18, even though the Health Ministry announced the latter earlier this month just before Muhyiddin's government fell.  

Newly minted Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has given all appointed cabinet members 100 days to prove their initial performance.

Zaharom also demanded that the two ministers, who were sworn in today, address unresolved issues from their time in Muhyiddin's government. 

First off, he said, very little was said or done about the mental health issues faced by the people the ministries were supposed to serve.

“This was plainly ill-advised and there is now a need for them to look at the elephants (not just one elephant) in the room.

“No amount of TikTok videos can match real work and an attempt to understand what's happening on the ground,” he added.

He is believed to be referring to the case of secondary school student Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, who exposed her teacher on the social media platform over allegedly making lewd jokes in class.

Zaharom also urged the ministries to address the digital divide and raised issues such as student connectivity problems as well as the 150,000 laptops promised by the government to students under Budget 2021 that were still largely unfulfilled.

Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin

On the issue of period spot checks, he reiterated the call for the Education Ministry to immediately ban such practices in school.

“Must the minister be told what to do about these demeaning period spot checks?

“Would he think twice if he were a female student and was asked to strip to check whether he's having his period?

“He should stop this barbaric, nonsensical practice immediately,” Zaharom said. 

Investigation into the allegations of widespread period spot checks in schools has not resulted in much progress after the minister said no indication of such practices existed.

Malaysiakini later submitted the names of 15 schools where female students were subjected to such practices, yet no action to reprimand the schools has been taken so far. - Mkini

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