Reopening Of Schools On Oct 3 Must Come With Public Health Blueprint

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Media Statement by YB Kelvin Yii:

While I welcome the recent announcement by the Ministry of Education to postponed the resumption of physical lessons at schools nationwide by a month to October 3, I strongly urge the Ministry of Education to put into place a clear and comprehensive plan leading up to that opening day to ensure a safe environment for our teachers and students and also contingency plans to mitigate any possible Covid-19 outbreaks in the school.

I really hope this October 3rd is not just a random date chosen by the Minister, but they have clear plans leading up to this date on what must be done to ensure and allay concerns of parents that it is safe to send children to school and help them catch up with their studies that they have missed out for almost 1.5 years.

If they do not implement a proper plan, I am concern that they will just continue to close schools without an alternative plan which will have big impact not just on the students, but whole school ecosystem including the canteen operators, bus school operators and others.

That is why this issue must be dealt with greater urgency as these “lost generations” could not afford to lose any more months on their studies especially since the Covid-19 pandemic is still raging.

All plans that is put in place must be based on data and science, on the guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO). MOE must have a clear, comprehensive and strategic plan, convincing and relevant to the school’s opening and closing guidelines, developed jointly with health experts from WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, Health Ministry, and Healthcare experts.

These transparent plans and standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be presented to the people to prepare them and transition in the new normal. Important parameters including vaccination coverage among all teachers, staff, canteen operators, bus drivers and even students must be sufficient.

On top of that, the government must subsidise self-testing kits and make it a norm even in schools where students and teachers test frequently before proceeding with classes to reduce risk of an outbreak in the school.

Then schools must be open progressively based on risk assessment and preparedness of the school to adhere to all necessary SOPs. The Ministry must avoid making decisions based on the “one size fits all” method and give autonomy to the district level education office and the parents to make best decisions for their children.

The government has so far wasted all this time without coming out with a comprehensive plan how to open schools safely and sustainably. We must not waste any more time anymore as this is important for the future and education of our children.

Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
MP Bandar Kuching