Thursday, February 18, 2021

Crowds of parents forced to queue for school transfers despite online process

The long lines of parents told to get their documents validated in person trigger concern over virus SOPs.

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The lack of a wholly online system for parents seeking to apply for a change in assigned school for children who will be starting secondary school this year saw hundreds forced to visit district education offices (PPD) in person, causing long queues that spilled onto the roads outside.

Parents said they were told to come in order to obtain a validation stamp from the PPD, ahead of the deadline this month to transfer their children to the school of their choice.

Many parents met by MalaysiaNow said the process had become more tedious this year.

Not only must they acquire confirmation from the school at which they are trying to enrol their children – which, alone, could take up to two days – they must also bring along copies of personal documents to be validated at the PPD.

A check by MalaysiaNow of those who turned up at the Petaling Perdana PPD in Shah Alam on Thursday found that many had been waiting for hours just to get their documents validated.

“The same form we submitted online, we have to give them by hand as well.”

Malathi Palaniappan arrived at 9am to collect her queue number only to be told at noon that the office had run out of numbers for the morning session.

“They issued queue numbers up to 250, and at 12.30pm we were told to come back at 2pm,” the 40-year-old mother, who is seeking to transfer her child from a school in Section 24 to Section 2 in Shah Alam, told MalaysiaNow.

She said it was strange that parents were told to bring the same form they had filled up and submitted online.

“Before we came, we were told to apply online but they still asked us to come here in person. The same form we submitted online, we have to give them by hand as well.”

The line of parents seeking to transfer their children to the school of their choice stretches far down the road outside the Petaling Perdana district education office in Shah Alam.

Another parent, Cheong Kong Chen, 43, said he could not understand why the documents must be validated when the school had already accepted the transfer.

“Even for that simple stamp, it is taking so long,” he said.

Students moving from primary to secondary school are assigned the school of their choice, taking into account the distance from their homes as well as the availability of slots.

However, it is common for students to find themselves assigned to schools too far from where they live.

This year, nearly half of some 50 secondary schools in the Petaling Perdana district, which covers areas such as Subang Jaya, Serdang, Puchong and Shah Alam, have been listed as full.

In previous years, transfer requests could be made online. These were processed by the school, with parents and guardians only required to submit documents after having them validated by a commissioner for oaths or the local community head.

These documents included the student’s Form One placement letter, birth certificate and UPSR results slip as well as the identification cards of child and parents.

Photos of the long queues outside the PPDs this week were forwarded by MalaysiaNow to the education ministry’s Corporate Communications Unit and the minister’s press secretary, neither of which has responded.

However, Education Minister Radzi Jidin made a surprise visit to a PPD in Klang where the situation appeared under control, with parents given chairs and shelter while they waited outside.

“The Ministry of Education is committed to improving the quality of its service delivery to all. Be assured that we will do our best to empower the nation’s education system,” Radzi said on Twitter.

Some parents who had been waiting since morning ask the security guard at the district education office when the afternoon session will begin.

But answers have not been forthcoming on why school transfer applications still need parents and guardians to be present in person.

Some parents who spoke to MalaysiaNow voiced concern over Covid-19 SOPs such as physical distancing, which in some cases was clearly difficult to observe.

“Just look around, there is no physical distancing,” said one parent.

Mimi Ismail, 39, said she had no choice but to join the crowd of applicants outside the PPD in Shah Alam.

She said even though applications are open until Jan 20, many schools have run out of spots.

“If we are late, there’s no way our child can attend the school of our choice,” she said.

Primary school students, as well as those in Form One, Four, Five and Six, will return to the classroom on Jan 20, about two and a half months after schools nationwide were shut down on Nov 9 following a fresh spike of Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Form Two and Three students will begin physical classes on March 8.

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