MPR Speaker urges return to classrooms

An FSGI survey in October-November shows that the number of teachers and students infected with COVID-19 after a test run of face-to-face learning in several areas is quite high. (Photo: Septiawan)

IO – Speaker of the of the People’s Consultative Assembly Republic of Indonesia (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat Republik Indonesia – “MPR RI”) Bambang Soesatyo (“Bamsoet”) has suggested that the Ministry of Education and Culture) consider the input of the Indonesian Pediatricians’ Association (Ikatan Dokter Anak Indonesia – “IDAI”) that recommencing face-to-face learning at schools now is a bad idea, as it will likely worsen COVID-19 infection rate. “Children’s health must be prioritized. Therefore, the Ministry of Education and Culture should reconsider its decision to reinstitute face-to-face learning at a time when COVID-19 infection is still on the increase. It should consider the number of children who could get infected by the Coronavirus, and the number of child deaths from COVID-19,” he said in an interview on Monday (07/12/2020). 

Bamsoet encourages the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Regional Education and Culture Offices to jointly survey the readiness of schools for face-to-face learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They should also monitor COVID-19 infection zone status of each region implementing face-to-face learning. “Remember, the safety of teachers and students must remain the Government’s first priority when policies are set,” he said. 

Bamsoet further requests Central and Regional Governments not to force schools to implement face-toface learning if existing structures, facilities, and human resources such as teachers and school staff are not up to stipulated health standards. Regional Governments and the COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force must also continue their effort to suppress, control, and minimize Coronavirus infection. “This is a necessary consideration for the Ministry of Education and Culture in reinstituting face-to-face learning,” he said. 

Similarly, Retno Listyarti, member of the Indonesia Teachers’ Union Federation (Federasi Serikat Guru Indonesia – “FSGI”)’s Council of Experts, stated that the Government should reconsider the reinstitution of face-toface learning in January 2021. “The FSGI reminds everyone from now to consider a possible increase of new infections after the Regional Elections and year-end holidays, and to prevent schools from becoming new infection clusters. In view of significant increase of new cases, the Government should delay reinstituting faceto- face learning, especially in areas recently holding Regional Elections, and not do so in January,” she said. 

An FSGI survey in October-November shows that the number of teachers and students infected with COVID-19 after a “test run” of faceto- face learning in several areas is alarmingly high. A total of 233 students and 46 teachers in 9 regencies and municipalities are confirmed to be infected by COVID-19. Retno states that Regional Election leave, followed by Christmas and New Year holidays soon after, will be used by teachers, students, and their family for traveling. Among them, many would fail to implement health protocols properly and are likely to get infected by COVID-19. “Students and their parents might go somewhere on the year-end holidays. Many teachers are parents, too, and they will want to enjoy the holiday with their own children as well. These teachers and students, along with their families, will probably not take the swab test after the holidays. Then they go to school and unknowingly spread the disease, turning schools into new clusters,” she complained. 

Retno reiterates that in view of the high potential of new cases after Regional Elections, followed by the Christmas and New Year holidays, face-to-face learning in schools must not be implemented in January 2021. This consideration should not apply only to Regional Governments and the COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force, but to Central Government as well. “Let’s not lose so many of our citizens right after Regional Elections and year-end holidays,” she said. 

FSGI also pushes Regional Governments to ensure the health and safety of all educators, educational staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There are still teachers who provide Remote Learning in schools, while they could have done it at home because internet connection cost aid is provided. We should consider the health and safety of teachers as they go to school and return home,” she said. 

Separately, IDAI suggests that parents should reconsider allowing their children to participate in faceto- face learning at schools in January 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. IDAI officially requests that parents support their children’s studies from home, whether partially or completely. They should consider whether the children’s participation in face-to-face learning will be more beneficial for them, or whether it will be detrimental to them because of the increased risk of Coronavirus infection. (dan)