Education Minister Radzi Jidin says his ministry will not stop school sessions despite calls for this by some following reports of Covid-19 infections in the institutions under their management.
He said based on data collected by his ministry, the number of cases and clusters involving schools under its jurisdiction show that the rate of virus transmission is lower than that of other clusters.
He said according to data from the health ministry, 60.8% of Covid-19 cases happen sporadically and are not linked to any cluster.
“There are 99 education clusters involving 6,549 cases. This represents 9.17% of the total of 1,080 clusters and 5.97% of cluster cases.
“Of the 99 education clusters, only 52 involve institutions under the education ministry with 2,274 cases. The remaining 47 clusters involve other institutions totalling 4,275 cases.
“The education cluster is small, but we speak of it as though it is a main contributor. We need to analyse the available data piece by piece,” he said at a press conference today.
Previous reports said several quarters including parents had been urging the government to close schools and to streamline the home-based teaching and learning process.
Radzi said schools would only close if the National Security Council and health ministry order for them to shut down.
He added that closing schools was an easy decision but not necessarily the most accurate.
He said data showed that students were at greater risk of being infected outside the school compound.
“Pupils will still be exposed if they don’t attend school,” he said. “It’s just that at school they are in a controlled environment. Teachers are always ensuring that they follow the SOPs.”
Radzi said complying with SOPs would facilitate teaching and learning sessions and reduce the rate of infectivity.
“When infections happen in schools, we take down the details of every case and try to understand where it occurred so that the SOPs can be tightened,” he said.
“In the context of students in school, if two pupils from different classes are infected, we track back whether they went home together, if they live in the same area, or if they take the same school bus.”
He added that the biggest challenge in handling Covid-19 infections involves students who live in hostels.
He said his ministry is forming a task force to focus on boarding schools and hostels.
He also said that parents who are uneasy about sending their children to school should say so, in order to ensure that students’ absence from school is correctly recorded.
“They need to inform us if they think their child has a health history that will make it unsafe for them to attend school. They have to write in,” he added.
“If all of them do not want to come, we won’t know who is being left behind. We need to have the right notes on why these students don’t come to school.”
He added that schools had never punished students who do not attend because their parents are worried about their health.