KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Parents have yet to be convinced to send their children back to school seeing that there are no fixed standard operating procedures (SOP) in place.
With Covid-19 cases still rising, parents of students from SJK (C) Puay Chai 2 in Petaling Jaya have voiced their preference for home-based learning until the Covid-19 situation in the country is contained, said its Parent Teacher Association (PTA) chairman Loh Tian Hong when contacted.
“More than 80 per cent of them won’t be sending their children to school, especially the first week at least.
“Most of them don’t agree with sending their children to school due to health and safety concerns and prefer to continue home-based learning,” he said.
Parents not convinced
This was the feedback that Loh had obtained from parents who have called on the government to instead focus on training teachers to conduct online lessons.
He said that parents are willing to wait until their children are either vaccinated or the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country has improved.
“What’s most important is clear SOPs must be fixed so that all schools nationwide know what to do should they detect Covid-19 cases in school.
“At the moment, there are still none,” said Loh.
SJK (C) Puay Chai 2 was one of the schools which were left in limbo over whether they should shut the school temporarily last April after detecting six positive cases among students from several different classes.
Only after a few rounds of appeal did the school finally obtain permission to shut temporarily to prevent further spreading of the virus.
Expressing similar sentiments, SJK (C) Khe Beng in Klang’s PTA chairman Wuan Luen Tek said at the moment he does not see that parents are ready or interested to send their children back to school.
Wuan said some of the reasons included the lack of SOPs in areas such as school buses and students having to still gather (in the school hall) before entering their respective classrooms.
“There is still no SOP for school buses, students lining up before entering their classes.
“How to trace each student’s safety if they are still required to gather in the school hall?” Wuan said, also referring to notices issued at the last minute that often disrupt preparations for school to shut or reopen.
As for Danielle Lee Yee Mei, PTA chairman of SJK (C) Yak Chee in Puchong, she too has feedback that parents are concerned over the current high Covid-19 case numbers, preferring to continue with home-based lessons.
“We are working very closely with the school principal on collecting data on how we can improve safety protocols in school should we have to send our children back to school anytime soon.
“That is the best that we can do at the moment so at least we have made our own preparations to keep our children, teachers and school staff safe,” said Lee when contacted.
For now, Lee said the school management is ensuring that all teachers, canteen operators, bookstore operators, janitors and security guards are vaccinated or are in the midst of getting vaccinated.
“We are also looking into collecting data for the other safety layers such as school bus drivers.
“We are trying to reach out to parents to collect this information and next would be daycare and babysitters (whether they are vaccinated),” she said.
Lee added that currently, the school is doing well with online lessons and not in a hurry to send their children back to school seeing the worsening Covid-19 situation at the moment.
Better at school
For Jess Teng, who has three children currently attending online lessons, she has hired a virtual private tutor for two of the older ones.
“My two older children have a virtual private tutor for Chinese and Mathematics, on top of their daily school online classes.
“But it’s just not the same. It’s very difficult for them to concentrate online, as much as we tried to make the study room a more conducive environment for them,” she said when contacted.
Teng added that she definitely would feel safer if her children were vaccinated before they go back to school.
“But the vaccination that’s in the pipeline now is not even for their age range; only for secondary schools.
“I can’t be only waiting until they are Year Six to send them back to school, that’s impossible,” she said.
Although she is considering a virtual one-on-one tutor for all subjects for each of them, it is not cost efficient.
“It’s so tough to think of balancing the need to protect their health versus their social and education needs,” she said.
Teng, a working parent, also said that she believes that sending children back to school is important as school is more than just a place for academic learning.
“It’s a place to learn social interaction, to see their teacher face to face to build a healthier relationship and to build friendships.
“Right now, I think my children are absorbing less than half of what the teachers are teaching online, as compared to when they went to school during mid-year, they picked up faster,” she said.
Still not safe
Mother of two, Laili Ibrahim, said while it is challenging to manage a toddler and an eight-year-old, she is still not convinced about sending her children back to school at the moment and not in two weeks’ time as the government announced — September 1.
“If I don’t feel safe going to the office, I obviously will not send my children to school.
“It’s too risky and there is no assurance of proper social distance in the classroom, going to the restroom and to the canteen,” she said when contacted.
Another parent Shakila Ahmad said while her children are in need of a fixed routine of waking up to get ready for school, she still does not see a convincing SOP set for her children’s school.
“We woke up late for ‘school’ but I can’t juggle between my work and having to monitor their online lesson.
“It’s not the same waking up at home and waking up to be sent to school. You don’t have to miss the bus at home,” she said.
In Teng’s view, while social distancing was practised in the classroom previously, she was satisfied with that.
“But I think there needs to be a passenger limit for transporters.
“They should not cram so many students into one vehicle anymore but this is one problem I’m not sure how to solve,” she said.
The Education Ministry had in July announced that schools will reopen in stages for face-to-face classes starting from September 1.
The Ministry reportedly said that home-based teaching and learning will continue until August 31.
This, according to the Ministry, applies to all government schools, government aided schools, private schools and educational institutions registered with them.