Confusion over who decides heatwave school closures

A woman cycles past a dried-up patch of forest in Chuping. — Picture by R. Mahgeshan
A woman cycles past a dried-up patch of forest in Chuping. — Picture by R. Mahgeshan

PETALING JAYA, March 20 — Conflicting statements are being made over who has the final say on whether schools should remain closed today in accordance with the guidelines of the newly-formed heatwave taskforce.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Madius Tangau yesterday recommended that schools in Alor Setar and Chuping remain closed but Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said otherwise.

Madius, in a statement, said the decision on closure would ultimately have to be made by Mahdzir, but Mahdzir told reporters in Kuantan that the final authority was with the taskforce.

The taskforce, which was formed on Friday, created a four-tier alert system which recommends that schools be closed if the temperature stayed at 37ᵒC over 72 hours.

Madius said Alor Setar had recorded a temperature of 39.1ᵒC for 12 days in a row until last Friday and in Chuping, it was 38.9ᵒC on Friday peaking at 39ᵒC for 14 days until March 14.

“In line with the guidelines of the taskforce, it is recommended that the schools in Alor Setar and Chuping be closed on Sunday (today). However, the Education Minister will make the final decision,” he said.

Mahdzir, however, said all schools would reopen today and tomorrow following the end of the first term holidays.

“For now, what we can do is to stop outdoor activities but classes will resume as normal,” he said in a Bernama report.

After the term break which started on March 11, schools in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor are due to reopen today, followed by their counterparts in other states tomorrow.

However, he said the taskforce, chaired by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, would be the final authority on deciding whether to close schools in a particular area.

On Friday, Junaidi told reporters Madius’ ministry would send out advisories to the relevant ministers for action to be taken.

“The ministers have final say on what happens next,” said Junaidi.

Getting into the mix yesterday was Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.

He said in a Bernama report that the Education Ministry must consider closing schools in areas experiencing extreme hot weather as there are students who walk some distance to school.

“There are certain areas in the country where the weather is terribly hot now and there are students who have to walk two to three kilometres to school because of the lack of public transport, especially in the interiors,” he said after an event in Kuala Lumpur.

He added that the Education Ministry and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry should pursue this matter as it was important because of the possibility of heatstroke.

Related Articles