Coronavirus: How to keep pupils safe when they return to school

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Photo: hemsterz/Pixabay

Khong Kah Yeong shares his ideas on how schools can resume operations – and keep teachers and pupils safe.

I refer to the recent article “Muddled thinking and education” published in Aliran.

While the writer has undoubtedly raised valid concerns, I am reminded that problems can also turn into opportunities.

On the lack of space to accommodate social distancing in classrooms, perhaps wiser heads than mine in the Ministry of Education and the Public Works Department might come up with a design for a new generation of post Covid-19 school buildings.

Remember what was done during the Tun Razak era to overcome the shortage of schools immediately after independence.

In the new generation of school buildings, planners could create an additional level, a mezzanine floor, for each classroom, thus creating extra space within reasonably sized classrooms.

This will help reduce the number of extra teachers required as a single teacher on a slightly raised platform will be visible enough to pupils seated at both levels of the classroom. This classroom should be able to handle about the same number of pupils as our existing classrooms.

Planners could also consider building multi-storey gyms for PE lessons and canteens.

Perhaps more radically, each block of the school could be enclosed in glass and ventilated by sanitised air from a central air-conditioning unit. This central unit could be powered by solar energy generated by solar panels placed on the roof of the building.

Pupils and staff going in and out of the building will have to pass through a remote temperature sensor unit and an air curtain of a fine spray of anti-bacteria and anti-virus mist to keep any bacteria or virus at bay.

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As for the transport problem for pupils, perhaps we may see the introduction of mini double-decker buses. These should be able to transport the same number of pupils while complying with social distancing requirements, at about the same cost as at present. Pupils will not need to go to school earlier or return home later than at present

If there is still a shortage of teachers and if our existing teacher training colleges are already operating at full capacity, perhaps the Ministry of Education could consider attachment programmes to well-established teacher training colleges overseas. This will give an added incentive to more people wanting to become teachers, surely?

Khong Kah Yeong is an Aliran newsletter subscriber who has some acquaintance with Malaysian schools

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