Schools have been closed since March last year. While closure is inevitable, it also has far-reaching ramifications. These impacts will be felt not just through lost learning hours, but also through the lack of institutional protection that schools offer, such as the food programme for many children from the B40 segment of society (Rancangan Makanan Tambahan) and various other supports for Orang Asli children in education.
After the implementation of home-based learning for nearly a year, our preparation and readiness is still below par. Three critical issues that would determine the quality of home-based learning, namely access to gadgets or suitable devices, internet connectivity and bandwidth, and adequate content for Education TV, remain largely unaddressed and are severely lacking.
Therefore, the reopening of schools should be one of our top priorities. However, since schools reopened in January, there have been several incidents where teachers were found to be Covid-19 positive. This raises many safety about safety. Parents need to be assured that appropriate measures are taken to protect their children before they can go bacl to go back to school.
Vaccinating teachers should become a priority and must be seen as a critical step towards creating an environment that is safe for children and provides stability for the education ecosystem. Last December, UNICEF has ben calling for teachers to be prioritised for vaccination, after frontline health care personnel and high-risk members of society. This will no doubt help to protect teachers from the virus, allow them to conduct face-to-face teaching, and ultimately keep schools open, which in turn will allow parents and society in general to gradually return to a semblance of normalcy.
British Education Minister Gavin Williamson is also advocating for teachers to be prioritised for vaccines. In Northern Ireland, upon the request of Education Minister Peter Weir, those working in special schools will be prioritised for vaccination against Covid-19. But in Malaysia, the Minister of Education has yet to speak up for teachers. I urge the Minister to show some leadership and urge the government to work on an effective recovery plan.
Teachers must be prioritised so they remain safe. They are one of the country’s most precious resources. Let us not forget their value in times like these.
Teo Nie Ching is the Member of Parliament for Kulai.
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