On Thursday (26 March), Khan Osman Sulaiman, a businessman and Reform Party candidate in the 2015 General Election, took to his Facebook to voice his agreement in closing all schools for the safety of children amid COVID-19 outbreak.
In his post, he started off by stating two different debates by the Government and the people on whether schools should continue to open or be closed temporarily due to the spreading of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
He said that people are insisting that schools be closed during this time as they feel that children are being exposed to the virus unnecessarily if they go to school.
“On one side, we have people who are adamant that schools should be closed. The reason being that children are being exposed unnecessarily during this pandemic. And it’s irresponsible to put children’s lives at risk,” he wrote.
However, he said that the Government is opposing this idea as it feels that the kids will be left unattended at home as both parents will have to go to work. This then results to loss of income to the family as one of the parents have to take unpaid leave to take care of their kids at home.
“On the other side, they oppose this suggestion giving the reason that no one would be taking care of the kids if schools are closed as many families have dual income parents where both husband and wife needs to work,” Mr Osman said.
He added, “Thus, it will affect either parents to take a no pay leave and care for their child’s well being. That would also mean lesser income for the family.”
On Monday (23 March), all schools reopened its doors following the March holidays, and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung took to his Facebook to explain his Ministry’s reasons for making this decision.
Mr Ong pointed out three different reasons – scientific evidence, taking extra precautions, and a goal to reduce disruptions – as to why students are allowed to start classes following the March holidays.
Mr Ong claimed that the first reason is scientific evidence and it revealed that the deadly novel coronavirus does not affect young individuals as much as it does on adults. In fact, evidence shows that young people are not the spreader of the virus, and they themselves get infected by adults at home, the Minister said.
The second reason is to reduce disruptions as the closure of schools will disrupt many lives, especially working parents.
While the third reason is ‘precautions’, which he claimed the ministry had consulted with healthcare experts and implemented additional precautionary measures to safeguard the entire system.
Some of the measures include the Government’s existing leave of absence (LOA) and stay-home notice policy, checks on individuals’ travel history at school gates, two-weeks suspension of students’ co-curricular activities, placing students who are feeling unwell in an isolation room or sent home, ensure all students to sit apart, and constant supervision on students.
Children’s lives are more important than attending school
Although Mr Osman feels that both parties have “merits on their arguments”, but he said that if he has to pick a side, then he would “go along to close all the schools just to be safe”.
He asserted that a person’s health is more important than anything else in this world, including money.
“The health of any individual is the utmost importance. If we have to take home lesser pay and inconvenience ourselves to care for the kid, so be it,” he explained.
He continued, “Our children’s lives are more important than getting them to school. No sane person will refute this.”
He went on to state that sending kids to school is a risk not worth taking and it’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure their children are safe.
“We don’t wanna be taking any risk to anyone’s health. Furthermore, it involves children who have no control over their own safety. As a parent, the most responsible thing to do is to keep them safe from harm’s way,” the businessman noted.
“Should that happen (school closure), the G will then have to play a role and assuage any problems parents will be facing in caring for our next generation of leaders.”