KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 – Schools nationwide are set to reopen fully next week after a nearly four-month-long shutdown due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) that was imposed to address the COVID-19 crisis.
While the necessary standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines have been put in place by the authorities to ensure the safety of students, teachers, staff and visitors, some parents are still having reservations about sending their children, particularly those at the primary school level, back to the classroom.
Their concerns are justified as their children are going to be exposed to many others after having been under their watchful eyes, both indoors and outdoors, for weeks.
Mother-of-two Sazlinda Osman, 45, said during the MCO, she trained her children, aged nine and 10, to practise self-hygiene and also supervised them during their online learning sessions conducted by their teachers through the Zoom application.
“There’s going to be a lot of excitement when our children return to school and meet their friends.
“It will be hard for them to practise social distancing… there are so many students there, I’m sure the teachers can’t possibly control all of them,” she said, adding that what she is worried about is whether her children will continue to practise the self-hygiene they were taught at home.
Another mother Hayley Lee, 40, hoped that the school authorities will monitor the students continuously to ensure that they comply with the strict SOPs to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
“When my children are at home, I know what they are up to and who they are mingling with.
“What I’m concerned about are the asymptomatic cases and the fact that some children don’t know the ethics of coughing and sneezing. Not only COVID-19 but coughs and flu are also easily contagious,” she added.
In a recent interview with a local television station National Parent-Teacher Associations Consultative Council president Associate Prof Dr Mohd Ali Hassan suggested that parents and alumni members volunteer their services to schools by helping them to enforce social distancing and control the movements of students before classes begin, during break and after school, similar to the roles undertaken by the police and army in the earlier phases of the MCO.
Such a move would not only relieve the burden of teachers but also enable parents to monitor their own children’s movements as well.
The first phase of the reopening of schools took place on June 24 for students sitting for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) as well as equivalent international examinations.
Under the second phase on July 15, students in Form 6 (Semester 1); Form 1 to Form 4; Year 5 and Year 6 (primary level); and remove classes will return to school.
The third phase will begin on July 22 and will involve Year 1 to Year 4 pupils in primary schools.
Leow Wooi Hian, who is deputy chairman of the board of governors of Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Phooi Yoong in Teluk Intan, Perak, said he is confident that schools are all well-prepared to reopen fully next week.
He said parents can visit their children’s schools to check the implementation of the SOPs that were drawn up by the Ministry of Health and the National Security Council to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff.
“They (parents) can inform the teachers if they have no confidence in the SOPs,” he told Bernama.
Tiew Lian Ching, who is a member of the school’s board of governors, said kindergartens which reopened from July 1 onwards have been seen to be coping well with the SOPs given to them by the authorities.
“If pre-schoolers aged six and below can follow the instructions of their teachers, then I’m sure primary school pupils will also be able to do so. Their teachers will keep reminding them to take care of their self-hygiene and observe social distancing,” she said.
According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education on June 4, the protocol for the reopening of schools covers social distancing, rearrangement of desks, washing of hands, health checks, cleaning and sanitising, announcements on health and safety measures and use of the MySejahtera application.
Staff and students whose body temperature exceeds 37.5 degrees Celsius or are symptomatic will not be allowed into the school premises. All sporting and co-curricular activities outside the classroom are not allowed until further notice.