We can’t go on locked down like this any longer


We can’t go on locked down like this any longer
By Zan Azlee

My eldest daughter Athena is in Standard Four and just like most students in Malaysia, physical school has been something of an anomaly in this past one and a half years. Last year, when schools closed for the first time, everything was in chaos. The online lessons were not even lessons. It was mainly just the teachers asking students to do homework from their workbooks.

But this year, admittedly it has improved. Live classes actually happen involving teacher-student interactions and lessons are being taught with the students asking questions. The home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) system seems to be doing okay in adapting to online schooling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, last month, my daughter told my wife and I that her extracurricular activities are a little bit extraordinary. My daughter’s selected sport (or should I say the sport that she was assigned to) is cricket. The teacher informed them that their cricket sessions will be every Wednesday at 2pm, online!

So here I am racking my brain thinking about how cricket lessons and practice is going to take place online. Apparently, one hour is online and another is offline. We don’t know the details of what will happen during the online and offline sessions yet because it will only start next week after the school holidays.

I’m not writing this to criticise the Education Ministry. I think the improvement of the PdPR from last year to this year is fairly commendable. Of course, there are many things that can be improved. Many! But you know what? I think that I would rather focus on how we can go back to normal instead of adapting to the “new normal”.

Let me give you another example. Athena has also been going to gymnastics classes. This one has nothing to do with her school or the Education Ministry. Ever since the pandemic, the classes have been online. Nothing much can be done except for regular fitness exercises. No actual gymnastic moves or progression can be taught online outside of an actual gym.

So it’s important that we start thinking of ways to go back to life as it was before (with the necessary health precautions of course). The lockdown has been going on and off for too long. Our children’s education has been suffering for equally as long. We need to get our kids back to school.

The intellectual, mental and physical well-being of our children needs to be prioritised. They need to have human interaction with teachers and friends. This allows them to learn better and also develop as holistic human beings. I’m sure we can all agree on this. So let’s try to think of ways to make it happen. We know much more about Covid-19 than before.

It seems like our National Immunisation Programme is rapidly picking up pace. Yesterday, it was reported in the news that more than 500,000 people were vaccinated. Some 15 percent of the adult population has received full doses while 33 percent have had one dose. Looks like we’re heading in the right direction as far as achieving herd immunity is concerned.

Hopefully, we can ensure that all school staff, from the teachers to all other general workers, can be vaccinated even if the students aren’t able to be. At the very least, make the vaccination process as simple and accessible as possible. We want to ensure everyone gets it. No need to implement petty dress codes if it isn’t necessary.

 

Appropriate standard operating procedures (SOPs) should also be thought up and implemented in schools. Proper sanitisation and social distancing can be implemented in schools just like how it was several months ago when the schools reopened briefly. Better ones can be implemented if need be, no, it should be.

Schools can have classes and campaigns to create awareness for good hygiene and social distancing. We’re not unfamiliar with this. For example, every school student I know is aware of the dangers of dengue and the aedes mosquito. Everyone is already aware of Covid-19 anyway. It can be part of their education.

As much as we want to protect ourselves from Covid-19, we can’t go on locked down indefinitely. We need to figure out a way to get back to life. Former deputy minister of international trade and industry Ong Kian Ming seemed to have a point when he said that Malaysia should now focus away from looking at daily Covid-19 cases.

According to the Bangi MP, we should be focusing on different indicators now such as percentage of positive cases, number and percentage of serious cases, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions and capacity, as well as the number of deaths. He gives examples like the United Kingdom where the daily number of infections is high yet they are able to come out of lockdown and still manage the pandemic.

We need to move out of the situation that we have been in for almost one and a half years now. It’s been too long and if it continues any longer, the detriments that the pandemic will bring to our society will be far greater than just the actual virus.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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