Online schooling not completely practical for Sarawak, asserts Fatimah

Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah

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KUCHING, Feb 28: Online education does not work in Sarawak especially in areas where Internet coverage is slow and poor, and not every household has the necessary gadgets for it, said Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah.

Fatimah in a statement today said when it comes to preschools and primary schools, not all parents are able to become the teacher’s assistants for their children during online learning session, or have the time for it due to their work commitments and other responsibilities such as household duties.

She said schooling is not only about the delivery of content, knowledge and information. It is also a social process where children socialise, interact with one another, including learn values and life skills from their teachers and peers.

“For preschools, due to the tender age of the children, face-to-face learning is necessary to enable effective teaching, hand-holding, guiding, advising, motivating, even consoling them when the need arises. They are still too young to learn on their own through online learning,” she explained.

Fatimah said this in response to a statement from Sarawak United Association of Chinese Primary School Board of Management president Jonathan Chai, suggesting for the reopening of schools in the state to be delayed until mid-May, as reported in a local English daily, recently.

According to the report, Chai opined that it would be ideal for schools in the state to be reopen in mid-April in line with Health Minstry director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s prediction that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country would decline to a double-digit figure by then.

In the statement, Chai revealed he was perplexed by the Ministry of Education (MoE)’s decision to reopen schools nationwide on March 1, and questioned the sudden change of decision when the enhanced version on online teaching has been introduced.

Meanwhile, Fatimah said the delaying the reopening of schools in Covid-19 red zones is needed in order to implement suitable enhanced and stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the context of the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak.

She pointed out that the decision was made taking into consideration that Sarawak has more boarding schools as compared to states in the peninsula, especially in rural areas where schools can be quite a distance away from healthcare services and facilities.

“In town areas, some schools have a big number of students and we need to consider all this too. Outside of the red zone areas, school sessions can proceed but must be conducted in strict compliance of the SOP,” she added.

On Feb 26, the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) announced that the commencement of the new school term in nine Covid-19 red zones districts in Sarawak was postponed for two more weeks to March 14.

The decision came after a discussion with MoE, following the advice of Sarawak Health Department (JKNS), taking into account of the health system capacity in the affected areas. — DayakDaily