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A student during a learning session in class.

20 JAN 2021

By Ruby Koh

KOTA KINABALU: Today marks the first day of a new school year where students who will be sitting for important exams this year and those in private kindergartens are attending face-to-face school sessions.

During the previous school years, students were full of excitement as they got to reunite with their friends after a long school break, or even meet new friends.

This time, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic that seems to only be raging more and more each day, they have no choice but to keep their distance away from their friends like they are some kind of enemies.

By now, Malaysians have learned and adapted with the new norm whenever they are out in the open – mask on at all times, ensuring hand sanitisers are never out of sight and even keeping clean religiously.

But sometimes with all these preventive measures, one cannot help but feel perturbed by the possibility of being infected with the deadly virus. Therefore, they decide not to opt for face-to-face school session.

At a local private kindergarten here, Caroline Stephen’s top priority as a school's supervisor was to ensure the first day of school for her students today go smoothly.

Students lining up at the hallway.

As a supervisor of Datuk Simon Fung Kindergarten, she said she noticed how the schoolchildren adapt very well with the new norm.

Today, she disclosed that about 60 students out of over a hundred of total students in the school were present.

“They seem to be very happy to come to school and there were not much crying scenes unlike the usual first days of school.

“While they are only able to interact with each other from a distance away, kids nowadays are already used to the new rules and they can understand very easily during their learning lesson,” she said when met by Nabalu News, today.

According to her, it was unfortunate that many fun programmes for the children had to be cancelled last year to make way for the movement control order (MCO) implementation, such as the harvest festival programme, sports and even the school’s annual concert.

Janet (2nd left), Dulina (3rd left) and Caroline (middle) together with the other teachers.

“We did quite miss the children last year since it was only about six months – from January until March and July until September – that they actually came to school for their school session.

“The rest of the time they all had to attend their sessions online, so it was indeed a blessing to be able to meet them during those short times,” she said.

However, Caroline said, the pandemic has posed some challenges throughout the time for the teachers as they had to conduct their online classes group by group.

“Personally I feel a lot of parents are still worried to send their kids to school, but I believe the schoolchildren will be very cooperative when the standard operating procedures (SOP) are coordinated accordingly and seriously.”

Dulina during her teaching session.

One of the teachers Dulina Yumpoh said only seven students out of the total 22 in her class were present today.

In some classes, there are about 10 to 14 students, she added.

“In class, we make sure to keep the tables one meter away from each other. Students have to wash their hands before they enter the class, before and after eating, and after they exit from the restroom.

“We do not allow parents to enter the school compound, they can only drop their kids at the school entrance. At the entrance, the students’ body temperature will be taken,” she explained.

According to the 54-year-old teacher who has served the school for 32 years, some parents have informed beforehand that they will not be sending their kids to school.

The students sitting as they wait for their parents to pick them up.

She said, some even asked if their kids can attend classes virtually from the comfort of their home. “But for now there is no instruction for online classes yet,” she said.

Another senior teacher, Janet Chong said some parents were perhaps still unaware that schools has reopened starting today.

“Only two of my students were present today, it’s most probably because some parents still think that the school is still closed,” she said.

In her point of view, this new norm can be very challenging for the students’ interpersonal communication development as they cannot really communicate and play with each other in a close distance anymore.

“Now they have to scream at the top of their lungs to talk with each other due to the distance, and they cannot play together like how they used to play in groups.

“Some don’t really know how to socialize since it’s only their first and second time in school,” she said, adding that such a situation can hinder effective development of the children.

She stated that the teachers now have to help the children do things that could actually do independently as required in the SOP as an effort to curb the possibility of Covid-19 transmission among the children.

“Back then, four-year-old children can pick up their own school shoes and bags without any help, or put their plates back on the table after they are done with their meal. Now as required by the SOP, teachers have to do everything for them,” she said.


Nabalu News is an online news portal that will bring you all the latest news and stories from Malaysia, particularly Sabah.

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