GEORGE TOWN: The Education Ministry and government must not ignore the concerns expressed by parents of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) candidates and students themselves who are now gripped with fear of potential infections following a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The last thing the country needs, according to Gerakan vice-president Datuk Baljit Singh, is for multiple Covid-19 clusters to be formed nationwide and to have students and families tested positive for Covid-19.
Baljit said it would be “criminal” for the authorities to expose so many Malaysians to Covid-19 by ignoring the rising cases due to the Omicron variant.
“The ministry should no longer drag its feet but come up with a host of alternatives to consider in scheduling the SPM exams. Do not wait and see for more schools, it’s student body, teachers and families to be infected before scrambling to pull last-minute stunts in the name of contingency.
“We do not know if Covid-19 cases will dip in the ensuing months. If some provision can be made for a ‘supplemental’ SPM sitting (for those who may be infected when the exams are originally held), that may prove to be a solution.
“All these options will pose multiple challenges to the authorities in figuring out the logistics, health security and other issues in deciding one way or another.
“As such, the ministry should now think out of the box for solutions for exam candidates during this time of a pandemic and rising Covid-19 cases,” he said today.
The New Straits Times reported yesterday that with new Covid-19 cases inching closer to the 20,000 mark, calls were mounting for the authorities to postpone the SPM examination set to take place next month.
Parents and students alike had said that apart from safety concerns for those taking the ongoing SPM oral tests, the fear of infection could also affect students’ psychological wellbeing as they prepared for the exams.
SPM candidates had also initiated an online campaign to pressure the authorities into postponing the examination until the Covid-19 situation was under control.
The SPM candidates for the 2021 cohort began their oral examinations on Tuesday. The session is scheduled to run until Feb 24. Written examinations are scheduled to take place from March 2 to 29.
The Health Ministry’s figures showed that out of 385 active Covid-19 clusters, 235 involved education institutions.
Elaborating, Baljit said with rising Covid-19 cases and body temperature screening being no longer compulsory at educational institutions, one option was for the SPM exams scheduled for next month to be deferred.
He said many people who were exposed to Covid-19 infections had not been self-testing for reasons best known to them.
He said the fact that body temperature checks were no longer compulsory in schools may require a review.
“This means a SPM candidate, teacher or support staff could be running a fever and coming to school unchecked.
“By proceeding with the exams next month as scheduled and offering no back-up or a ‘Plan B’ and risking a nationwide cluster, will be nothing less of a foolhardy and callous display of leadership,” he added.
Besides that, Baljit noted that consideration must also be given to not upset the college and university entry plans (local and overseas) for candidates, many of whom had invested time and money for their further education.
Malaysia, he pointed out, was no longer in any financial position to keep boosting its health and medical resources or to lend any form of assistance to economic sectors if it institutes more lockdowns.