Education and Higher Education Ministries should try to keep the schools and universities open during the Covid-19 pandemic, taking into account the need to reduce the spread of Covid-19, and not to close them down as an automatic reflex
The Education and Higher Education Ministries should try to keep the schools and universities open during the Covid-19 pandemic, taking into account the need to reduce the spread of Covid-19, and not to close them down as an automatic reflex.
This is why the announcement by the Minister of Education, Dr. Ridzi Jidin on the closure of all schools from Nov. 9, even in states where there are no Covid-19 red zones, had been met with mixed reactions.
In the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic in March and April this year, when Malaysia and the world were grappling with the deadly Covid-19 epidemic for the first time, uncertain of the nature and characteristics of the pandemic, the closure of schools was the automatic reflex to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
But after 10 months of the Covid-19 epidemic, we should be able to learn the lessons of the epidemic not only in Malaysia but the whole world, and we should be flexible and nimble in our reactions to the various health, social and economic effects of the epidemic.
One of the lessons in fighting the Covid-19 epidemic is that no one rule fits all circumstances as school closures impact not only students, teachers and families, but have far-reaching economic and societal consequences.
Jidin’s reply in Parliament that the closure of all schools even in states not currently under the latest conditional movement control order (CMCO) was to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infections was not convincing enough.
Is Jidin seriously suggesting that schools and universities are the natural breeding grounds of Covid-19? Are they to be closed until the end of the epidemic?
As it is not really known when the vaccine for Covid-19 could be widely available, with the knowledge that the pandemic may last the whole of next year and may even go on until 2022, people in every country must learn to live with the coronavirus as it is inconceivable to close all schools and universities until 2022.
Schools and universities should re-open with stricter standard operating procedures (SOP) and more creative options, like smaller classes or classes in alternative weeks.
Decision-making for closure of schools and universities should be decentralised – for example, mandating each state government to decide on the issue instead of a national central agency.
Educational NGOs and parental groups should be involved in the process to keep schools and universities open during the Covid-19 pandemic, instead of finding the easy way out by closing them – with far-reaching economic and societal consequences outlasting the pandemic.