Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said Sarawak's particular circumstances necessitated a later opening.— Borneo Post Online
Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said Sarawak’s particular circumstances necessitated a later opening.— Borneo Post Online

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KUCHING, Feb 28 — Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said today that the late reopening of schools in red zones is to meet enhanced and stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) suitable in Sarawak’s context.

“For instance, we have more boarding schools in the state than in Peninsular Malaysia and they are mainly located in rural areas, some a distance away from medical personnel, clinics, and hospitals,” she said in a statement on behalf of the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

“In town areas, some schools have a big number of students. So we need to consider all this,” she said in a response to a statement from Sarawak United Association of Chinese Primary School Boards of Management president Jonathan Chai on schools to reopen two or so months later.

Fatimah said schools outside the red zone area may open but must comply to stringent SOPs.

She said online education does not work in areas where there is poor internet coverage or slow internet speed, pointing out that not every household have the necessary gadgets.

“In the case of preschools and primary schools, not all parents are able to become teacher assistants to their children during online learning, or have the time for it due to work commitments or other responsibilities and household duties.

“Online education inevitably widens the gap in education and learning opportunities among children in Sarawak,” Fatimah, a former senior education officer before entering politics, said.

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

She said 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 the young ones when the need arises .

“They are still too young to learn on their own through online learning,” she said.

Yesterday, Chai proposed the reopening of schools be postponed to mid-May, asserting that schools should be reopened only when either the pandemic situation in the country is very much under control or the majority of the population is vaccinated against the virus.

He told the Borneo Post that he could not comprehend the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) rationale for its “one-size-fits-all” decision that schools nationwide are to reopen on Mar 1.

He said it made no sense as the country had been registering thousands of Covid-19 positive cases on a daily basis.

On February 26, SDMC, on the advice of the state Health Department and after discussing with the Ministry of Education, the reopening of the schools in the red zone districts will  be delayed for two weeks, from March 1 to 14, due to the sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 positive cases.

The red zone districts are Kuching,  Samarahan, Julau, Meradong, Sibu, Kapit,  Bintulu, Subis and Miri.

The schools in zones categorised as orange, yellow and yellow, can reopen, together with the rest of the nation on March 1.

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