Keeping children’s best interests at heart

It is evident that experts from different sectors were involved in coming up with the updated SOPs.

Taking boarding schools for example, a ‘safe bubble’ system is introduced to make sure students are safe within their environment.

Parents and the community would have the confidence to allow their children back to these schools with the new tightened SOPs and for those who aren’t confident, it is normal to feel so as one size does not fit all.

They have their own views and beliefs, and all parents would want the best for their children.

Through the new SOPs, parents are empowered to make decisions that are best for their children.

This is important because schools should be a safe place that supports and protects both the children and parents.

– SEGi University psychologist Prof Datin Dr Mariani Md Nor

The updated SOPs are much needed at this hour as the vaccination drive for students is still in progress.

However, we must remember that these SOPs cannot be followed strictly by special educational needs (SEN) students.

As there are various kinds of SEN students who need to be guided all the way, teachers and teacher assistants cannot keep a safe distance from them.

So, even if the Education Ministry insists that everyone should follow the SOPs strictly, these students may not be able follow them.

It is a different situation altogether, compared to mainstream school students.

We must monitor the situation closely at the moment.

The ministry has, however, drafted appropriate and suitable SOPs to be followed.

We cannot lock the children up for too long as they have missed a chunk of their education, and teachers have to prepare them for their examinations.

– National Union of Teaching Profession secretary-general Wang Heng Suan

Reopening schools is critical but it is not enough.

We will need to work together to plan, prioritise, and ensure that all children are back in school; that schools take all measures to reopen safely; that children receive tailored and sustained remedial learning and comprehensive services to help them readjust and catch up; and that teachers are supported to address the learning losses among children.

We will have an opportunity to build back better by using the most effective crisis-recovery strategies as the basis for long-term improvements.

These include monitoring student dropout and disengagement; the continued role of distance learning; plans for remediation and tracking of their effectiveness; new approaches to and the shifting role of learning assessments; localising decisions on reopening schools; effectiveness of health and safety measures; skills development and support to teachers; and psychosocial supports to well-being and better mental health.

– United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Malaysia education specialist Azlina Kamal