KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — The further extension of the movement control order (MCO), now until April 28, was probably welcomed by students rejoicing at the longer school holidays, but for some families, it meant spending more time apart.

Some parents working in essential services who spoke to Malay Mail said that they had even had to send their children away to be cared for by their grandparents or relatives.

A hospital staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Sabah who wanted to be called Liah said she had to send her two children to her hometown of Keningau to live with her mother.

Her husband works in a hotel, so he too has to be at work daily and they are unable to care for their children.


“Normally we send them to a day care centre and I would pick them up at the end of the day. But with the MCO, the nurseries are closed and no one can look after them. I’m also wary of coming into contact with them after work,” said the 35-year-old.

She said she sent her maid to help her mother with her young children, aged five and three, but the decision has not been easy.

“My mom is elderly and the maid is not used to being in the village. I miss them so badly I would cry to sleep,” she said.


The situation improved recently when her husband’s working hours was shortened and she was placed on new shifts at the hospital, allowing her to get home early.

“We also take some extra hygiene precautions before entering our house,” she said.

She said the children would be asked to stay in the room with the maid when the couple come home. She and her husband would change, shower, wash their clothes and disinfect the living room upon reaching home.

“It’s difficult but it’s better than being away from them,” she said.

She also said they are considered lucky as they could afford to have a maid to take care of their children at home.

“I’m still lucky, some of my colleagues don’t even have a maid and they leave their kids at home alone and pray nothing happens,” she said.

Another parent working in the essential services who wished to be called Siti, had a similar story. She has had to send her two young children, aged six and eight, to be cared for by her parents.

“My husband works in a hospital and I work in the airport, we have to be very careful so it is better to send them to my parents’ house where they are safe and well cared for,” she said.

Her husband had to be quarantined at one point and she had to live at her parents’ house during that period too.

“Now, he’s out of quarantine so I move back home and we keep in contact with our children by calling them daily, it is difficult but neither one of us want to risk exposing our children due to the nature of our jobs,” she said.

She said her children seemed to have adapted to it, treating the MCO like a long school holiday, since their kindergarten and school did not have online classroom modes.

“My parents gave them the freedom to play and watch television whole day so they are really enjoying it, my parents are also happy to have the children keep them company,” she said.

Another parent who had to be away from her child, Tan Ching Ching, 35, only gets to talk to her baby using video calls.

The marketing executive said her five-month-old baby is staying with her parents-in-law and she used to visit her baby once a day to deliver breast milk before the MCO was enforced.

“After they tightened the regulations with roadblocks, we couldn’t go anymore,” she said.

She added that they live in a condominium and they would be exposed to many people when they leave the unit and go to the carpark.

“I am quite worried that we could be of risk to our child should we be exposed to anyone with the virus,” she said.

Despite working from home during this period, Tan said she and her husband are usually tied up with conference calls and online meetings daily that they left it too late to video call their baby.

She said the initial two-week MCO was still bearable for them, but when it was extended another two weeks, it was almost too much for her.

“When the government announced the extension, my heart broke. It would mean I will be separated from my child for the entire month,” Tan said.

With schools out, parents are now teachers too

Juggling between working from home and entertaining children’s demands has proved quite the ordeal. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Juggling between working from home and entertaining children’s demands has proved quite the ordeal. — Picture by Farhan Najib

The situation has not been easy for parents whose incomes have been impacted due to the MCO.

Hairdresser Winnie Khoo said she has had to continue paying rent for her salon which was closed, meaning zero income for her this month.

Now, she cooks daily for her family and keeps her children occupied by getting them to work on academic work books.

“I bought work books for them earlier so they spend time to do that, at other times, they play together and sometimes, they fight; that’s normal,” she said.

She said it was fortunate that both her children understand that they cannot leave the house and are content to stay at home.

Some schools and tuition centres have now switched to online learning through Google Classroom or using video chat applications like Zoom and Skype.

Branding and communications manager Jessica Teng and her husband said they now have to double up as “teachers” at home to make sure their three children, aged eight, six and three, attend online classes and complete their online homework.

“To be honest, juggling between working from home and entertaining children’s demands is frustrating,” she said.

It is also a challenge to cater to the needs of each child as the youngest still needs his afternoon naps while the eight-year-old needs to attend Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams Meeting tuition classes.

Her children also attended piano classes and this is now conducted through Zoom once a week.

She lamented the difficulty in juggling between work commitments, cooking for her family, helping her children with their schoolwork and keeping them entertained.

She hoped the MCO will not be extended as she believed her children are getting restless by the day.

“So I have no choice, like it or not I gave them the tablet and a spare phone so they can go on YouTube kids and Netflix Kids,” she said.

She also expressed concerns that her children could be left behind in their studies.

“The kids need the school environment, I find them freezing in front of the camera and they are just not used to classes online,” she added.

Another parent, Jayee Low, 29, is worried that this prolonged period of staying at home would mean her four-year-old child refusing to go back to play school when the MCO is lifted.

“He is already telling us that he doesn’t want to go back to school once the MCO is lifted,” she said.

She said he is enjoying the “long holiday” at home and did not mind being cooped up at home all the time.

“We can’t work with him around. He’s always asking us to accompany him while he plays. We can’t play with him while we are working and he will feel sad when we turn him down,” she added.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will postpone reopening schools until the situation is safer and the Covid-19 outbreak is under control.

Addressing parents’ concern of their children’s education after the MCO was extended again, Muhyiddin said he has directed the Ministry of Education to implement home-based learning during the partial lockdown.