Govt owes us an explanation, say some parents wrong-footed by school reopening in March

A parent shop for new school essentials for his child in Shah Alam February 20, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A parent shop for new school essentials for his child in Shah Alam February 20, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — Education Minister Datuk Mohd Radzi Md Jidin’s announcement last Friday that schools will reopen from March 1 caught some parents, especially in areas still under a movement control order (MCO), off guard.

Social media blew up with angry comments over the announcement, especially since parents had rushed to secure gadgets for the ministry’s home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) programme just weeks prior.

Malay Mail talked to several parents who voiced their concerns over the matter.

Deaf ears

For Zulfadzli Halim, who has four children — in Standards One and Four and Forms One and Three — the sudden announcement by Mohd Radzi spelled nothing but bad news.

He expressed disappointment because it appeared not to take into account his children’s health and safety, especially when new Covid-19 cases in Malaysia remain in the four digits.

“Can the ministry guarantee that there are no infections among children in school?

“Parents who are already burdened with expenses — some have even invested thousands of ringgit in laptops and devices, both through savings and loans — are now facing new burdens.

“School means uniforms, school vans or buses and other expenses,” he told Malay Mail.

As it is, Zulfadzli and his family have been badly affected by the pandemic.

He lost his job as a senior aircraft engineer after the travel industry was left in tatters last year.

He also relocated his family twice, from Kuala Lumpur to Penang and back again, in the space of a few months.

He lamented the apparent lack of empathy from the government who does not appear to have listened to parents’ distress over how difficult life has become.

“Direct planning changes that do not take into account the interests of these parents signal that this government is not only deaf, but also does not want to listen to public opinion.

“I believe we have returned to the era of ‘government knows best’ and the people are expected only to follow and obey,” he said.

Burden of responsibility

A parent shops for new school shoes for her children in Shah Alam February 20, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A parent shops for new school shoes for her children in Shah Alam February 20, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Noraini Ramli, a manager with three children in Standards One and Five and Form One, also complained about the lack of engagement with parents from the Education Ministry and schools on the resumption of in-person classes.

“Having three children in two different schools also means we have to cater to different needs.

“With only a few weeks to go, I as a parent feel that the government did not think about what parents have been going through,” she told Malay Mail.

Noraini listed the thousands of ringgit of expenses already shouldered by parents even before school reopens this year.

“We have to ensure our children have gadgets and internet data to follow PdPR. We also have to get workbooks from their teachers. We paid for Covid-19 tests when people we came into close contact with were diagnosed with the virus.

“Now, we have to buy school uniforms and textbooks, adjust our schedules to send the children to school and pray that no one in school gets infected with Covid-19,” she said.

Unanswered questions

For Lim Lai Meng, an office director, he and his wife have been left scrambling to find a way to send their children who are in Standards Three and Five, to school.

“Many school bus companies are no longer operating in my area because of the pandemic.

“Some parents who are both working also need to adjust their time for now if they are going to ferry their children to and from school,” he said.

Lim also expressed his concern about disadvantaged parents who might be even less prepared for school reopening, especially as Covid-19 remains foremost in everyone’s minds.

“I am lucky because we can still make adequate preparations. What about less fortunate parents who rely on school buses and are concerned for the health of their children as well as themselves as the pandemic is still raging?

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, and the ministry and government owe parents an explanation,” he said.

On February 19, Mohd Radzi said pre-school, Standard 1 and Standard 2 classes will start on March 1, while Standards 3 to 6 sessions will commence on March 8.

For secondary students, those in the Group A states of Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu will start school on April 4, while secondary students in Group B states will attend school from April 5, which is after the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) 2020 examination.

He said the decision to allow primary pupils to start school earlier was to allow both them and their teachers the chance to adapt to the new normal as well as Covid-19 standard operating procedures.

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