In view of a record number of COVID-19 cases registered overnight, and clear evidence that the spread of COVID is not slowing down, MAPSSS believes that the necessary actions need to be taken to control the spread of COVID-19. It is evident that the measures taken so far have not been effective enough.
In view of the above, MAPSSS questions if it would be premature to open schools on September 30th and asks whether the protocols issued on 2nd September are considered sufficiently effective to safeguard the wellbeing of students and staff in schools and whether the implementation of these protocols would be finalised by the end of the month.
Should the current situation lead to schools using Scenario 1 on 30th September, i.e. online learning, each school should make it known to the parents which single online platform has been chosen for online schooling.
A system that requires working parents to stay at home to assist their children in homeschooling, needs to be discussed with the Employer Associations to ensure that parents are given the opportunity to telework (where possible) and that no disciplinary action is taken against the parents in circumstances where teleworking is not possible.
It is also imperative that MEDE ensures effective outreach for students that “disappeared off the radar” during the school closure last March. It should be ensured that disadvantaged and marginalised children, including children in low-income families and migrant children in open centres, have access to the necessary hardware and software, as well as internet access, to benefit from proper schooling.
In view of the negative impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health, as suggested in several academic research papers, a mental healthcare support unit should be organised specifically to support the students, including through home visits by trained personnel for checks, assessment and eventually intervention.
MAPSSS also asks MEDE to ensure that children of frontline personnel and educators are being provided with adequate daycare and appropriate organisation to allow them to follow their curricula during their parents’ or their legal guardians working hours.
MAPSSS reiterates that in view of the current uncertainties brought about by COVID-19, MEDE should make it clear that the mandatory introduction of new uniforms in KG1, YR1, YR7 and YR9 is being postponed. Besides the fact that some parents are experiencing financial pressures related to the pandemic, we should not have people queuing for uniforms in social distancing time, when we don’t know when and if schools will open.