HAS MUHYIDDIN REGIME GONE NUTS? TRYING TO CREATE FEEL-GOOD FACTOR AHEAD OF SNAP POLLS OR NOT, MOVE TO REOPEN SCHOOLS BACKFIRES: PARENTS & TEACHERS UPSET OVER LAST-MINUTE DECISION THAT CAME OUT OF THE BLUE – EVEN AS COVID-19 NUMBERS REMAIN VERY HIGH

Dismay over last-minute school reopening decision

PARENTS and teachers are disappointed with the Education Ministry’s last-minute announcement on the reopening of schools, which is slated to start in stages from next week.

They told The Malaysian Insight that the flip-flop measures have made it difficult for them to prepare their children.

Education Minister Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said last Friday that primary school pupils will return to classes in two groups, starting as early as March 1. Secondary school pupils will return in April after the end of this year’s mid-term break.

Schools were ordered to close on November 9 last year following an increase in daily Covid-19 numbers. They were originally scheduled to begin on January 20 with face-to-face learning but that was postponed following the high number of cases.

Housewife, Haniza Ahmad, 36, said the government has failed to handle the learning issues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This reopening is really last minute. The announcement on whether the schools will be opened is late and then, the announcement is left at that.

“I have been waiting for so long for the 2021 school session announcement but it was made known that only the pupils with major examinations can return.

“And so, I did not buy any back-to-school stuff. But now, it is a rush to complete the chore.”

A teacher, who wanted to remain anonymous, said teachers prefer that schools reopen. However, the late announcement has also made it difficult for them to prepare.

The 25-year-old said they had to change the schedules for home-based teaching many times since schools were first closed due to the movement-control order (MCO) last March.

Currently, they face the same trouble adjusting for face-to-face learning.

He said teachers are also concerned about the limited school facilities to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP).

“This should be solved before schools reopen, just that it is a short time for us to make preparations.”

Make it work

Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said the announcement was expected because the ministry’s home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) programme faced many problems.

However, the inconsistency of the government’s direction had demoralised parents and teachers, he said.

“Many teachers have burned the midnight oil to get the PdPR manuals done, it is a great injustice to the teachers with the ever-changing policies.

“There was also a lot of excitement on the launching of the Didik TV that we have just started.”

The mere announcement of schools reopening is also insufficient.

“It would be more assuring if parents know that there are extra classrooms to split the pupils into smaller classes or have increased manpower to ensure our children are safe.”

The recent opening of schools for SPM and STPM pupils was widely accepted with overall attendance exceeding 70%, Mak said.

“As such, it will be good if the ministry allows gradual return from different levels.

“Alternatively, work on a rotational basis in a week, such as allow the lower primary pupils to return for two days and the upper primary to return for three days.”

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) president Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said parents have always had mixed feelings about sending their children back to school.

But she assures that school would be safe for pupils.

“The World Health Organisation has stated that the rate of infectivity at schools is only 0.026% which is almost negligible.”

The priority is to strictly follow the SOP without exception, she added.

“While we expect everyone to be diligent, specific teachers should be made responsible for this so that no one takes the SOP for granted.”

On the blanket decision to allow all schools to reopen simultaneously, Noor Azimah urges freedom of choice.

“Neighbourhoods are unique, each with its peculiarities. Give parents the option to opt-out by not making attendance compulsory at this point.”

She also said the teachers’ effort on online class preparation and parents’ investment in digital equipment are not in vain.

“These are skills that should be honed for the future as we are not out of the woods yet.

“Moving forward, this is the jumpstart we needed to get connected as we go into Industrial Revolution 4.0,” she said.

THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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