Irene Urges SDMC To Clarify On The Reversal Of Decision To Reopen School

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Press Statement By Irene Chang

SDMC’s reversal of decision to reopen most schools besides those in Covid 19 high risk areas without any proven facts and data that the situation is now under control, does not inspire confidence in the people of Sarawak. It raises the question among many parents if the state Education office have been pressured by their big boss in Putrajaya to toll the line. It also raises the question if SDMC really has the autonomy and the authority to make our own decisions based on the local situation in the State.

Everyone understands and is very concerned about the disruption of our children’s education caused by the pandemic. While some are happy and relieved with the reopening of schools, the majority of parents and even teachers are worried and concerned. In fact, there were hopes that the earlier date of 14th March would be further extended in the red zones if things does not improve by then. Most parents are now worried that the latest decision is indicative that all schools would be reopened on 15th March regardless of the pandemic situation.

SDMC should therefore clarify to the parents on this reversal of decision especially when Sarawak is still recording triple digits of positive cases every day. This number of cases is expected to continue to increase in Sibu due to high number of swab tests done through active tracing of close contact as revealed by Sibu Division Disaster Management Committee (SDDMC) coordinator Dr Annuar Rapaee.

Since SDMC had announced that the reversal of decision was made based on assessment by JKNS (State Health Department) and the Education Department, they should provide the parents with the data on the basis and the factors leading to this decision. The parents have the right to know these details, in particular, if the assessment include the fact that while children and younger persons may not suffer severely from Covid 19, they might become the source of severe infections to their elderly grandparents staying under the same roof. This would put further stress on our health system, especially in Sibu where it is already recording the highest mortality rate in the whole of Sarawak.

Data should also be provided to the parents on the numbers of students tested positive in Sarawak from March 2020 until now. It was revealed by the Health Director General in October last year that 2,145 pupils out of the total 23,804 cases (nearly 10%) were tested positive from February 2020 until October 2020. Parents would like to know if the situation in Sarawak for students is just as bad or not as bad.

While most parents understand that schools would need to reopen sooner or later, SDMC should be orderly and systematic in their approach. They should not rush into making decisions and waver in their decisions, once made, especially when the pandemic situation has not been stabilised and the majority of the people have not received the vaccination.

Certain ground work should first be done and carried out by SDMC, JKNS and the Education department before schools are allowed to reopen, especially in high-risk areas. Random samplings of the students from different backgrounds and areas should be carried out as thousands of school children come from various social backgrounds and it is impossible to trace their close contacts and movements before entering school. This is to gauge the community transmission rates and to only allow reopening of the schools if it is very low or low.

SDMC should also consider the high number of teachers who travels daily from high risk areas to lower risk areas as in from Sibu to Selangau or Julau and the risk that these teachers are posing to the students in those areas. They should push for these teachers to be given priority to be vaccinated even if medically they do not belong to the high risk group.

All these and other groundwork need to be done first before SDMC can allow schools to be reopened. SDMC cannot afford to make another mistake as in the home quarantine policy and which have caused Sibu to become the epicentre of Covid 19 in Sarawak and the people to suffer with no end in sight.