The need to find a middle ground when it comes to education

By Stephen Ng

 

IT IS time now for various stakeholders including the parent-teacher associations (PTAs), school administrators, the Ministry of Education, the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) and the Ministry of Health to come together in order to tide over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under the current scenario, there is no point for some parents, especially those representing the PTAs, to appear like “cry babies.” They should be the last people to demand the schools to close over just a few isolated cases. 

The health authority has standard operating procedures (SOPs) which it uses when assessing a particular situation before deciding the extent of the spread. Any decision made is, therefore, based on the results of the assessments.

We have to understand that these same medical frontliners are already fully occupied with the screening of COVID-19 cases and doing contact tracing; they have no time to waste or respond to the fake allegations made against them by irresponsible parties.

Depending on the number of cases, and the extent of the spread, a school should continue to operate if the situation is under control. 

This is why the local district education office has taken a proactive stand to close some classes instead of the entire school, each time a case is detected. 

If the situation worsens, and if it warrants for the entire school to be closed, the health authority would advise the local education district office to close the school.

Until then, the differences in opinion should be kept to the minimum, especially when it involves only a few positive cases and these cases are already being placed under quarantine. 

The last person who should decide on closing the school is the laymen on the street, who have no medical knowledge or understanding of public health management. 

In situations like this, I would suggest that some of these PTAs lend a helping hand to the school authority in order to enforce the SOPs on the children.

My question is: Can the supervision of the children, for example, be beefed up with the help of volunteer parents?

PTAs are set up to assist the school, not to overstep the authority of the school administrator.

Whether we like it or not, a decision has to be made and it is not an easy decision, trying to find the balancing act to satisfy all stakeholders. No one wants the number of cases to rise; at the same time, no one wants their children’s education to suffer. 

As someone pointed out, the virus will stay with us until at least 2023. We should therefore see how best to manage the situation if we want to keep the schools open.

Although I was one of the parents who first expressed my concerns when the Ministry of Education announced the reopening of schools, we have to look at the situation realistically. 

Parents can opt not to send their children to school, if  they feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, if they do send their children to school, care should be taken not to put their children in packed school buses or in daycare centres that take more than a certain number of students.

The last thing is for some parent-teacher associations to make matters worse by confusing the situation further. – April 19, 2021

 

Stephen Ng is an ordinary Malaysian who has contributed his thoughts on a number of issues to stimulate the country’s thinking public.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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