Educators, parents want clear action over education clusters

CPRC reported a total of 83 Covid-19 clusters with 4,868 cases involving the education sector as at April 20


THE National Parent-Teacher Associations Consultative Council said the authorities must be competent in addressing the concerns over the Covid-19 clusters emerging in schools.

Its president Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently that the authorities have to take prompt action in implementing measures at the national or state level.

“Temporary closure of schools is necessary to mitigate an outbreak, which means students may have to go back to home-based learning,” he said.

He also reaffirmed his suggestion for the Education Ministry (MoE) to turn district education offices (PPDs) into one-stop centres in addressing problems related to home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) and DidikTV KPM.

“PPDs can serve as the best means to communicate with parents who are facing hardships with PdPR, and they (PPD officers) can just raise the problems to the authorities immediately,” he explained.

Bernama reported that Mohamad Ali had suggested the MoE to create a hotline managed by dedicated staff who are specifically assigned to address matters relating to PdPR and DidikTV at the district level, rather than being centralised at the state or national level.

“This is a good solution to help parents in the interior. For example, as elected representatives are easier to be contacted at the district level, PPDs would have easy access to parents and could then bring the matter to the central level,” he said.

According to a statement by the Health Ministry (MoH), a total of 83 Covid-19 clusters with 4,868 cases involving the education sector from January until April 20 were reported by the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC).

Of the total, 49 clusters, with 2,617 cases recorded, were still active, while 34 clusters (2,251 cases) had ended.

Based on the total clusters, the sub-category of schools/institutions under MoE contributed to 39 clusters with 1,420 cases reported, sub-category of higher education (19 clusters, 1,870 cases) and other education sub-category (25 clusters, 1,578 cases).

“MoH welcomes the commitment of all (in the) education sector in ensuring students and trainees do not miss out on continuous learning and training,” while also making sure they are carried out “in a safe environment”, the ministry stated.

It added that the need for temporary closure of classes or premises will be considered.

On Saturday, Opposition leaders had called for the education minister and deputy ministers to resign for failing to perform their duties on Covid-19 management in schools.

“What is happening now is that many school managements have lost direction. They are not prepared for PdPR if the schools are closed when there is an increase in cases in schools,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

The statement was signed by former Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad (PKR), Teo Nie Ching, (DAP), Datuk Dr Hasan Bahrom (Amanah), Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau (United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation), Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muda), Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah (Pejuang) and Ahmad Hassan (Warisan).

They added, until now, there have been no updates on the government’s 150,000 laptops for students as previously announced.

Meanwhile, a parent who wanted to be known as Lily told TMR that the lack of response from the MoE is extremely worrying as she has children in kindergarten and lower primary school.

“For now, I think that the MoE is not preparing schools enough to manage the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines. Children being children will forget the SOPs once excited. Schools are not ready to cater for small numbers of students per class, too.

“In view of this, a new policy and system are needed to be drawn as soon as possible. If the MoE can’t draw it on their own, no harm in accepting help from experts. It is high time for them to stop politicking and start keeping our future generations safe,” she said.

Another parent who would like to be known as Norlida said MoE’s actions of delaying a response might lead to more clusters.

“The late response from the MoE could be taken negatively, as if they might not have structured a mitigation plan properly or are just constructing one now. They should just make a decision before more clusters appear,” she added.

According to a report, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun said the government has its own way of addressing the emergence of Covid-19 clusters in the education sector that are reported in several states which have raised concerns among parents.