Educators want more say in school closures amid Covid-19 spike

School stakeholders and associations left in the dark on the next course of action when coronavirus is detected in certain localities


SCHOOL administrators and educators are requesting for more say in determining the closure of certain institutions or any dismissal of class sessions as part of preventive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Aminuddin Awang said the State Education Department (JPN), District Education Office (PPD) and school administrations must be allowed to make immediate decisions to dismiss any session if there is any indication of a possible spread of Covid-19 cases within the localities.

“Parents are very worried and they have pressured teachers to get the message across to the Ministry of Education (MoE).

“They find the process of passing any Covid-19 information to the PPD, JPN or even higher authorities before any decision is made would consume time. By the time any decision is made, the spread could have already taken place among the school communities,” Aminuddin told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Currently, the order to close a school due to Covid-19 is only made on the recommendation and advice of the National Security Council (NSC) and Ministry of Health (MoH).

At press time, all schools located in areas classified as red zones in Klang district in Selangor, as well as Sandakan, Papar and Tuaran districts in Sabah, will be closed from today until Oct 23.

The MoE in a statement later yesterday said the closure involved 142 schools in Klang and another 242 schools in the three districts in Sabah.

As Covid-19 infections recorded lately continue to be in the three-digit numbers, including infections detected among students and teachers in schools, stakeholders and associations are left in the dark on the next course of action when the coronavirus is detected in certain localities.

Aminuddin said in an earlier report that teachers had to settle for “a wait-and-see approach”, while the decision-making is slow.

He added that people need to know that managing pupils is not the same as managing adults, so swift action must be taken.

“If the situation is clearly causing discomfort among students and teachers, then an immediate decision must be made.”

Aminuddin said NUTP has already forwarded the request to Senior Minister (Education) Dr Mohd Radzi Md Jidin. He said the union is still waiting for the minister’s response.

Yesterday, another series of Covid-19 infections was reported in a school in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. A news portal reported that a teacher from SMK Taman Sea tested positive for Covid-19. Subsequently, students and staff members at the school were ordered to self-quarantine immediately.

At around 4.30pm yesterday, the entire district of Klang was placed under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), which includes the closure of all schools within the area.

The current drastic increase in Covid-19 cases has “spooked” parents as quite a number of them has decided to pull out their children from attending schools.

“However, we are also worried that our children could not catch-up on all the syllabuses that are still in session,” a parent who only wants to be known as Norhayati told TMR.

“Still, the worry is real, especially when we know that a one-year-old child died of Covid-19 on Tuesday. I just cannot gamble on my child’s life,” she added.

Norhayati concurred with NUTP’s view that school administrations should be authorised to close the school immediately if they suspect any of the members had caught the virus.

“We would not know who the carrier is…It is best that all schools that are not in the green area be closed,” she said.

Aminuddin said teachers are also in a dilemma — whether they should allow students to skip school.

Parents who have their infants registered at daycare centres are also worried as some of them also admit transit students from schools.

On the contrary, National Parent-Teacher Association president Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hassan said all guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) have been given sufficiently to the schools.

As such, he said there is no need for school closures at a large scale for now.

“We do not have to close schools for now, but people must adhere to guidelines set by NSC and MoH.

“Parents who are worried should not send their children to school. Learning is important, but life is priceless.

“I have been informed that the prime minister will come out with a special announcement regarding schools.”

Meanwhile, the number of areas that have been classified as red zones has increased to nine as of yesterday, including Klang and Papar in Sabah which made the list after the number of active cases in the districts reached 55 and 48 respectively.

Red zones are areas where the number of active Covid-19 cases is 41 and above.