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Is the Education Ministry ready to reopen schools, asks expert

KUALA LUMPUR: With schools set to resume physical classroom lessons in stages from Oct 3 in Phase 2 and 3 states, observers have expressed concern over the lack of clarity over the preparations amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Centre of Community Education and Wellbeing lecturer Dr Anuar Ahmad said with a month left before the reopening, the community, especially parents, are still in the dark over the reopening plans set to be implemented by the Education Ministry.

“In April and July, the ministry only announced their decision to reopen schools a week before, leaving parents in a rush to get their children ready for school.

“As of Aug 30, the ministry has only announced the implementation of Program Pemerkasaan Pelaksanaan Kurikulum (KPMPerkasaKU), which only provides information on the implementation of teaching and learning (PdP) between September (this year) and February (next year).

“The main focus of KPMPerkasaKU is to complete the whole syllabus, including syllabus left behind due to the school closure.

Types of School in Malaysia - Public, International, Vernacular, Private

“By right, the school reopening plan for Oct 3 should not only focus on the PdP process to complete the syllabus, as per KPMPerkasaKU,” he said in a statement.

Anuar said the ministry’s school reopening plan should take into account the students’ needs.

The needs, he said, include students’ mental health issues, welfare, nutrition, and providing a home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) alternative that is inclusive.

“On mental health issues, be it depression, sadness or stress among students, so far there is no programme in the plan that aims to restore enthusiasm, excitement, re-strengthen and boost the morale and psychology of the students.

“The ministry should have an adjustment week for the first two weeks of schooling,” he said.

Anuar said the ministry should also look into the welfare of students who have lost their parents or guardians to Covid-19, as well as those from hardcore poor families whose lives were affected by the pandemic.

“On nutrition, students desperately need a well-planned school supplementary feeding programme at school to ensure their growth.

“Finally, the ministry needs to provide an alternative PdPR that is inclusive and effective for groups of students who will not be allowed to go to school by their parents due to fear of Covid-19 infection.”

He said the school reopening plan must be comprehensive and cover all students, regardless of their localities and economic levels.

The plan, he said, must also take into account vulnerable students such as Year 1 and Year 3 primary students to help them master 3M skills, students in rural areas as well as students with disabilities.

“With a month left, the ministry should have been ready with a school reopening plan that is more convincing than the one they had in April.

“The plan must be comprehensive, targeted, and include feedback from parents, teachers, educators, and non-governmental organisations that related to education.

“The question now is whether the ministry is ready.”

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