THE “lost generation” of schoolchildren will go back to school on March 1 after a long spell of missed face-to-face classes owing to the pandemic.
It was supposed to be a piece of news that parents and children, as well as teachers had been longing for and to be welcome with great relief.
Instead, it was received with much trepidation as well as anger among them because the reopening date was announced by Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin at the last minute. As a result, it has brought about various kinds of problems and inconveniences to the people concerned.
Other families, especially those who don’t own cars or motorcycles or have the luxury of time, desperately sought the services of school buses, if any. A prior notice would have enabled idle school bus operators to plan for possible resumption of services.
Parents who have to ferry their children to schools would have to make hurried arrangements between spouses and with their respective workplaces, if at all possible.
The recent launching of Didik TV would have led most parents to believe that home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) programme would be a long haul until such time it is safe for pupils to return to schools.
That is why some parents had already invested in laptops and other communication devices to enable their children to follow the PdPR programme.
Bear in mind that many parents have been financially strapped by the pandemic so that they had to dip into their savings or borrow money to buy these essential devices for their children’s education. Some parents have been laid off or are now underemployed.
The money spent on the devices could have been kept aside for the basic needs of the struggling families or rainy days had they known that the schools would be reopened soon.
These are financially vulnerable parents who probably were not listed to receive the 150,000 laptops initially said to be a donation from the government, but later turned out to be a loan.
We can imagine the frustration, disappointment and even indignation that many parents experienced as a result of the haphazard planning of the Education Ministry. Many parents are already burdened with other issues associated with the pandemic and, thus, this chaotic ministry’s planning is the last thing they would want to face.
Many teachers are also disillusioned by the ministry’s flip flop, particularly those who had burned midnight oil to prepare manuals under the PdPR programme. It is now reduced to an exercise in futility.
Additionally, some teachers found themselves having insufficient time to prepare for the return of the children to schools, such as ensuring the strict adherence to the SOP given the limited resources in certain schools.
A well-conceived planning of the ministry would have allowed for much-needed preparations on the part of parents as well as teachers. It must also take into consideration problems peculiar to parents who are poor and financially unstable.
Such a planning also necessitates consultation with various stakeholders, including families, community leaders and school bus operators.
It is obvious that operational complications should have been minimised as much as possible.
The Education Ministry needs to clean up its act. Otherwise, it would be a bad example even for schoolchildren.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT