1,009 schools in Sarawak’s 21 red zone districts to close until June 13 due to upcoming holidays

School books. —DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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KUCHING, April 28: Students in 1,009 schools across Sarawak’s 21 Covid-19 red zone districts will not be returning to class until June 13 due to the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays, post-Raya national circuit-breaker and then the two-week semester holidays.

Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Datuk Amar Michael Manyin Jawong pointed out that students were supposed to return to class on May 3 after the two-week closure order imposed by the Sarawak government to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections in schools in red zone districts.

“But Education Minister Radzi Jidin made the decision to let the schools remain shut as it would only be five schooling days before the schools start their Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays from May 8 to 16.

“It will be a long holiday for the 372,433 students and 30,435 teachers in the closed 863 primary and 146 secondary schools,” he told The Malaysian Insight yesterday.

Radzi had on Monday (April 26) announced that school lessons will be held online for two weeks after the Hari Raya holidays—from May 17 to 28—through home-based teaching and learning methods (PdPR).

The decision to close schools, he explained, was to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections after the holidays and schools will remain closed for the term holidays from May 29 to June 13.

Manyin, who had an online meeting with Radzi yesterday, highlighted that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has suggested for Sarawak to consider adopting the policy of closing school for a minimum of two days when one positive case is reported.

According to him, the meeting which was also attended by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas who chairs the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), showed the two different approaches the State government and the federal government take in handling infections in schools.

“The State government adopted a proactive policy in ‘taking no chances’ while the federal government adopted a reactive policy—act when only there is an infection.

“While we are not taking chances and closing all schools within the red zone even if there are no reported infections in the schools, the MOE adopts a policy that if there is one reported positive case, the school should close for a minimum of two days.

“That’s the guideline they (MOE) want us to consider,” he added, explaining that one day would be for sanitation and the other for situation evaluation.

The closure will also be dependent on the report of the District Health Officer.

Radzi had asked Sarawak to reconsider the MOE’s policy as the way forward after May 28 as he was concerned about the blanket closure of schools in areas with high number of infections, as even though there is no infection reported in schools, the students could be missing school for up to a year.

“We told him had we not closed the schools the spike would have been worse.”

Manyin, however, said the minister was also right when he said he was concerned about the consequences of long school closures on students’ education.

“He (Radzi) also argued that the movement of students could be more controlled if they are in school.

“They would be confined to the school. If they are not in school, they could be more mobile, even going from one kampung to another,” Manyin quoted Radzi as saying.

Manyin said Radzi took a good one hour to explain the rationale of his reactive policy and keeping the schools open.

During the long holiday, Manyin emphasised that his Ministry will meet with the State Education Department, SDMC and State Health Department to discuss “what should be our way forward”.

He added that the way forward could be to follow the MOE’s list of guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP) it had drawn up but “adjusted to suit our situation”. — DayakDaily