With CMCO ending in Johor, Kedah, Melaka, and Terengganu tomorrow, ahead of the initial date on December 9, will MOE now reconsider its SOP to close all schools?

I believe these heartwarming news have recently flooded the Facebook of many Malaysians:

  1. Cikgu Mujalifah Kassim from SMK Sibu Jaya, Sibu visiting her students who have no internet access, and marking their homework outside their gates to ensure they don’t feel left behind in class.[1]
  2. Teacher Sambau Dugat from SMK Lubok Antu leading a group of primary and secondary students from his village in Nanga Sumpa and nearby Nanga Jambu on a jungle trek just to get good internet coverage.[2]

I want to join the rest of Malaysians to express my heartfelt gratitude towards Cikgu Muja and Teacher Sambau. Words cannot express how grateful I am for your dedication and enthusiasm.

However, I would also like to take this opportunity to invite my fellow Malaysians to consider this:

“Is there a necessity for these teachers and students to endure such hardship?”

According to statistics published by the Sarawak State Health Department, there were only one red zone and two yellow zones in the whole of Sarawak from November 6 to November 19. Kuching recorded 97 cases making it a red zone, while Lawas and Miri recorded only 1 and 5 cases respectively.[3]

Sibu is 300km away from Kuching, 400km away from Miri, and 600km away from Lawas. Meanwhile, Lubok Antu is 250km away from Kuching, 600km from Miri, and 850km from Lawas.

Both areas have not recorded any active Covid-19 cases nor new cases from November 6 to November 19. However, schools in both Sibu and Lubok Antu have been closed since November 9.

According to Teacher Sambau, he organised the trip after seeing students from his village frequently make the journey on their own recently.

As there are no proper roads leading to the destination, 14 primary school pupils and 8 secondary school students walked for about 45 minutes through a dense jungle, crossed many streams, and walked another 1 hour and 45 minutes uphill to a place where they could finally access internet.

Teacher Sambau and Cikgu Muja did what they did because their students were left behind in their studies.

The Ministry of Education is fully aware of the digital gap among students. Its very own survey showed that 36.9% of pupils nationwide do not have any electronic devices while internet access and speed are some of the main issues students face during home-based learning.

So, is there a need to close schools in Sibu and Lubok Antu when these two areas have been Covid-19 free for 14 days, especially when online learning cannot be carried out effectively?

Sibu and Lubok Antu are not the only green zones in Sarawak. From the map released by the Sarawak State Health Department, 90% of Sarawak remains a green zone, and these are mainly rural areas.

A hasty decision to close all schools nationwide will only widen the existing education gap. Until and unless vaccine is widely available, the Covid-19 virus will remain a threat. Are we then going to close all schools nationwide whenever there is a spike of cases in certain areas?

And with CMCO ending in Johor, Kedah, Melaka, and Terengganu tomorrow, ahead of the initial date on December 9, will MOE now reconsider its SOP to close all schools?

Last but not least, I want to thank Cikgu Muja, Teacher Sambau, and many unsung heroes out there once again. During this trying time, you are the hope and strength of our children. The nation is deeply indebted to you.

MP for Kulai
Media statement by Teo Nie Ching in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 21st November 2020