Call on Education Ministry to readjust and bring forward school holidays in view of SARS outbreak

Press Statement
by Raymond Chong

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Yesterday, Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad advised students who have flu or show SARS symptoms to stay at home for 10 days. He also explained that such students should heed doctors' advice to stay at home for a maximum of 10 days although this did not mean that all students struck down with flu would have to stay home for 10 days.

Musa's proposal is not a good way of resolving the problem because not only would students' studies be affected but under the present gloomy scenario engendered by SARS, the teaching of school syllabus also cannot proceed smoothly.

Thus, I suggest that there is a need to readjust the schooling timetable, as for instance, to bring forward the school holidays scheduled from end May to early June to an earlier date until the SARS outbreak is successfully contained and only thereafter to reopen the schools.

Through such a move, the benefit of students and teachers alike can be safeguarded since the requirement on students who show symptoms of SARS to stay at home would face problems catching up with their studies and teachers would have to spend more time on these students to help them with unfinished homework and assignments, thus slowing down the teaching process.

At least, Musa's proposal show that he is serious in dealing with students with SARS symptoms unlike the irresponsible attitude of his deputy, Datuk Abdul Aziz Shamsuddin.

On April 2, Aziz had announced at the Parliament lobby that schools will be closed down only when 50% of the students contracted SARS. However, he subsequently said on April 7 that schools will be closed down when 25% of the students have SARS. He should therefore apologize for his irresponsible and fickle-minded statements.

At the same time, the Education Ministry must work hand-in-hand with the Health Ministry to create greater awareness amongst students and teachers on the prevention of SARS as well as inform parents about safety measures for children, such as staying at home to revise their studies and avoid going to crowded places.

As Musa had also stated previously that students who go on medical leave for 10 days did not mean that they had contracted SARS, similarly my suggestion that school holidays should be brought forward does not imply that the SARS outbreak has reached a very serious stage but only as a precautionary measure to protect the health of teachers and students.


* Raymond Chong, DAPSY National Vice Chairman