Anxiety among parents is mounting as concerns over possible Covid-19 infection among school-going children grow amid an exponential increase in the number of new infections in the country.
They called on the authorities to temporarily close down schools in high-risk areas, including in Kedah and Selangor, and revert to e-learning for two weeks or until the number of cases had significantly decreased to minimise the risk of transmission.
Parents also questioned the authorities’ decision and rationale behind the closing down of kindergartens in red zones and advising students of higher education institutions to stay home yet paying no heed to primary and secondary schoolchildren.
Sharmila Raj, 40, a mother of two from Ipoh, said schools in red zones and high-risk areas with increased number of cases and new clusters, such as in Selangor and Kedah, should be ordered shut.
She said although the Covid-19 situation in Ipoh was under control and her children’s school maintained strict compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOP), the risk of transmission remained, especially since inter-district and interstate travels were allowed.
Therefore, she said, the government should also impose a temporary ban on interstate travel.
“Recently, about 600 Penang children underwent swab tests. Imagine the misery these children went through. Even as an adult, I am trying to avoid the swab test in fear of pain.
“Children are trying to adjust to this new norm and to trouble them with the nasal test is just unnecessary.
“Earlier, children were not allowed out as they are vulnerable (to Covid-19). Why is it that they are now permitted to go to school, whereas higher education institutions are asked to hold online classes?
“I do not understand the logic behind this. Parents and transport operators will gather around schools before and after school. Doesn’t this pose a risk?”
She said parents should be given the choice to keep their children at home and classes should also be conducted online if schools remained open.
“When school resumed in July, teachers stopped online homework without considering parents who decided to keep their children at home.
“I hope teachers will be supportive and share the daily homework with parents.
“The daily figures reported cover only those who have been tested. What about others who have been exposed but not been tested?
“People are still going for holidays now and travelling to other states to visit family.
“The government must make a decision with the welfare of the kids in mind and not look at schools as a daycare for working parents,” she added.
Musliha Miskam, 40, a teacher and mother of two from Seri Manjung, Perak, said the authorities and the Education Ministry should take decisive action to close schools not only in red zones, but also in places where there was a risk of community spread.
“School is important, but life and safety matter. I prefer my children to be at home during this time and continue with online classes.
“Kids are more vulnerable to this pandemic and not every child knows how to follow the SOP. There is bound to be risk of transmission.”
Musliha said e-learning should be the new norm and the government should invest in developing and improving the facilities.
“There are many places, especially in the inland and rural areas, with poor Internet reception.
“Our education policy and the curriculum must be revised to ensure it is in line and updated with the current situation.
“The children are our future and the virus might be in our society for a long time. We need to find a way to live with it, at least until there is a vaccine.”
A mother of three from Subang, who declined to be named, expressed concern over SOP implementation in schools where physical distancing was a challenge.
She said it was impossible for schools to adopt the 1m physical distancing ruling in classes with full attendance.
She also said more needed to be done in terms of daily sanitisation of classrooms and furniture to ensure the safety of the students.
“Overall, the SOP seems fine, except in (my 14-year-old child’s) classroom, where they do not practise a one-metre physical distancing for seating arrangements due to space constraints.
“The school administration said the Health Ministry and
Education Ministry had approved it. When school ends students are grouped in several waiting locations, where, again, there is no adherence to the one-metre rule.”
She said schools should, therefore, be closed nationwide until the situation improved and e-learning adopted.
If the number of cases dropped, she said, classes could continue for secondary school students, but with strict compliance with the SOP.
“Schools can adopt a rotation attendance by dividing students into two or three groups when the daily Covid-19 cases return to single digits.
“All primary schools and kindergartens must be closed since it’s difficult to practise physical distancing due to their maturity and vulnerability.”
She said employers should adopt a similar policy of having employees come in on a rotation basis and allow them to work from home until the pandemic ends.
Businesswoman and mother of two, Rupy Gill, 33, from Taiping, said the government should leave it to parents to decide whether they want to send their children to school.
She said with the technology today, teachers could conduct classes both in person and online for those who are unable to attend. – NST