Pending rep wants Education Ministry to implement comprehensive guidelines on protective measures taken at schools

Violet Yong

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KUCHING, Sept 9: The Ministry of Education (MOE) should come up with a comprehensive guideline that details the layers of Covid-19 defenses needed to be implemented by schools, parents and students to ensure and keep schools safe as they welcome back students starting next month. 

These measures should include regular rapid antigen testing, use of quality face masks, toilets ventilation and frequent sanitising.

Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong, in saying this, criticised MOH by saying that so far, it has only given advise on the generic steps that schools needed to take, which caused parents to be concerned and unconvinced about schools being safe enough for their children.

“The majority of parents are puzzled with the Ministry’s decision to reopen schools when the (Covid-19) case numbers are still so high and without a clear SOP (standard operating procedures) in place.

“The schools must be given clear specific instructions to avoid confusion. These instructions must take into consideration different scenarios in the schools. It is a true measure of how ready is the Ministry to open schools,” she said in a statement today. 

Yong also suggested some measures which should be implemented in order to keep the school bubble safe from Covid-19, given that the dangerous and highly transmissible Delta variant is prevalent throughout the country.

She pointed out the importance of using quality face masks with sufficient filtering and fitting quality, which the MOH must ensure that they are available to students, especially the lower income B40 group. 

“It is pertinent for the government to have a clear and definite face mask programme or risk an epidemic spread of Covid-19 infection because only masks of appropriate filtration property and cover properly will be effective,” she said. 

She also emphasised that ventilation is still a pressing issue as all classrooms, common rooms and especially toilets which students frequent have yet to be installed with proper ventilation systems. 

“At the very least, the Ministry must install window ventilation fans to ensure sufficient good air flow in the closed confined areas to avoid increasing the virus load in such stagnant air confined areas. 

“We must bear in mind, with the high infectivity of the Delta variant, even with only half class capacity, poorly ventilated classrooms will enable the virus load to build-up to infect our children.”

Third is screening measures, where Yong suggested that schools run a weekly rapid antigen testing for teachers, students, support staff as well as contractors’ workers to pick up any positive cases who are mostly asymptomatic due to vaccination, and to isolate them from the school community. 

Yong also advised that disinfection be done in science laboratories, computer rooms, prayer rooms and rooms dedicated for specific activities once there is a change in the group of children using any room in school. 

She also urged MOH to engage and communicate with parents to ensure that there is sufficient awareness and understanding of their definite planning in ensuring school is safe and increase parents’ confidence in their children’s safety and wellbeing when they return to school. — DayakDaily