Education Ministry has failed students, teachers & parents

By John Isaac

THE Ministry of Education has clearly failed our children, students and even teachers in both.

“They have failed in protecting them during this spike of Covid-19 cases and also in planning proper procedures and guidelines for the reopening of schools during this current pandemic.

“They did not take the necessary measures to ensure students did not fall behind in their students,” said Dr Kelvin Yii.

Currently with the spike of cases in Sarawak and even around the country, the Bandar Kuching MP said parents and teachers were worried about theirs and the safety of the children.

It is reported that up to 186 schools nationwide and an estimate of up to 112 schools in Sarawak itself had seen infections since reopening under the instructions of the Ministry of Education.

“I understand the decision to open schools is tough as there are many factors to consider, especially balancing the need to protect the children, and ensure they are not left behind in their studies, especially the poorer students and those living in rural areas.

“However, what is worrying is even after more than a year in the pandemic, the Ministry doesn’t have a comprehensive plan how to address this issue nor help equip the teachers to adapt to such a situation,” he said.

The Ministry has been reactive in their policies which is shown by the constant “flip-flopping” and sudden last minute decisions, leaving parents more concerned and many confused.

As a result, not only are our students, teachers and staff getting infected, but there is a whole generation of students left behind in terms of their studies and are finding it hard to catch up and cope.

Dr Kelvin Yii – Picture from the New Sarawak Tribune

Need for education blueprint for the pandemic

“That is why I urge the Ministry the Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to come up with a comprehensive “education blueprint for this pandemic” in addressing this issue,” stressed Dr Kelvin.

This includes clear and specific parameters and considerations being used to decide the opening and closing of schools in case of an outbreak or a surge of cases in the area.

“I thus proposed three main things the Ministry must undertake immediately to properly address the current situation especially here in Sarawak,”.

– Close all schools in Red and orange zones for at least two weeks to help break the spread of infection in the school. By going on with the current system and classes, it is not effective as students and teachers are distracted by the rising cases as well as the disruption in their learning momentum in school.

– During this period of “school closure”, the Ministry must come up with a ‘hybrid system” or “rotation system” for schools in high-risk areas where classes are rotated on different days, thus reducing the number of students in school.

Some who can follow home-based learning will be allowed to do it at home and those that cannot be allowed to come to school.

The Ministry must then train and equip all teacher to adapt to such a system during this period and not let them “figure things out” on their own.

This will prepare the teachers as school reopens again and this system can be in place for schools in high-risk areas and be reverted back to normal once the situation improves.

– The Ministry must be transparent on crucial information on Covid-19 outbreaks in schools so parents will make informed choices on what is best for their children in such a situation.

With clear and specific parameter, parents can then evaluate whether to send their children to school, or even for the District Education Department to make decisions when to open or close schools.

Such decisions must be based on facts and data and not any political consideration. Vaccination for teachers must be prioritised in Phase 2 which starts today.

“That is why I urge the Ministry of Education to be pro-active and come up with a comprehensive plan before more of our students and teachers suffer even more.

“We cannot waste time again like without coming out with a comprehensive system.
Schools cannot just simply open and close based on daily numbers, and this cannot go on forever, especially as many expert are expecting Covid-19 to be endemic.

“That is why a clear system must be in place for any eventualities. Unclear policies by the Ministry have clearly failed both our students and teachers and the Ministry must take responsibility for that,” added Dr Kelvin.