SINGAPORE—The second term of school in Singapore opened on Monday (Mar 23), much to the dismay of many parents who are extremely worried about the risk it poses to their children amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A petition calling for the closure of schools across the country “before the coronavirus spreads to the community” has been launched on change.org, and as of this writing, it has more than 7,700 signatures.
The petition, which is entitled “Close down Singapore local schools before the coronavirus spreads to the community”, was started by user “Jasper X” on online petition platform change.org and is directed at Singapore’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health.
The petition calls for all local schools in Singapore to be shut down, citing the severity of the virus and the number of confirmed cases worldwide. When Jasper X started the petition, there were only around 20,000 cases across the world. Currently, the global case count is more than 370,000 infected persons, with more than 16,400 fatalities.
“From kindergarten or daycare for toddlers to secondary school, junior college and possibly university, the children and young adults may be prone to this infectious virus. Just because there is a possibility that the students will not be infected doesn’t mean that it’s a risk people are willing to take,” wrote Jasper X.
He cited that schools were shut down for a few weeks during the SARS epidemic of 2003, “in order to decrease the chances of students getting infected”, adding that it is “exactly what should be happening really soon, if not now!”
While many countries across the world have cancelled schools and were placed under some form of lockdown, Singapore schools remain open.
On Sunday (March 22), Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung took to Facebook to share a detailed post on why schools are still opening after the holidays, despite the risks, and outlined three key considerations.
Firstly, Mr Ong noted that “there is a body of scientific evidence showing that COVID-19 does not affect the young very much as compared to adults”, and “neither is there evidence to show that the young are vectors or spreaders of the virus”.
The education minister noted that the children might even be more safe at school, where they are with other kids, “who are less susceptible to the virus than adults”.
I realised that my last post cannot be shared properly because of a link. I have removed the link and reposted. Wasted…
Recently, World Health Organisation director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned young people that they are not “invincible” to the coronavirus and ought to take heed of strict measures to help stop the spread of the virus.
“Although older people are hardest hit, younger people are not spared. I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.
Secondly, Minister Ong said that closing the schools would be a great disruption for many Singaporeans’ lives, especially for medical professionals and health care workers who have children and cannot leave them on their own at home while they do their jobs.
Mr Ong said that schools are implementing new, stricter precautionary measures—travel histories will be checked at gates, students will only associate with their class, and social distancing measures will be enforced, such as having the children sit apart from each other. Teachers will ensure that children are washing their hands properly and practicing good hygiene, and students showing any symptoms of COVID-19 will be placed in isolation or sent home.
The government has also introduced the Leave of Absence (LOA) policy, which states that all school faculty, staff and students who had travelled abroad during the school holidays and have returned on or after March 14 are required to take an (LOA) for 14 days.
On Monday (March 23), the first day of the second school term, Mr Ong posted an update on his Facebook account, stating that while some schools the education ministry had checked on seemed quieter, precautionary measures were being enforced.
“We are doing our best to keep students and staff safe in school so that students can continue learning in a familiar environment, with a familiar routine. Let us all do our part to make that happen,” wrote Mr Ong.
Term 2 of school has started. School leaders, teachers, and staff have worked hard over the tail end of the March…
Meanwhile, the petition to close all local schools in Singapore because of the COVID-19 pandemic is still collecting more signatures from supporters.
“Schools should be closed down NOW before it’s too late,” finished Jasper X, at the end of the petition.