Back to school in the new normal

Schools are slowly starting to reopen their doors after more than three months.

On June 24, after more than three months, 500,440 Form Five, Form Six, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Agama students from 2,440 schools and many international schools entered their classrooms again.

In a live telecast on July 1, Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced that schools nationwide were set to welcome all students in primary and secondary schools in phases, starting July 15.

Each school must choose one of three models of operation, and submit their choice to the ministry, which would then decide if the model is suitable. Its decision would be made known a week before the school reopens.

Under Model 1, schools would conduct lessons in one session. This is for schools that can accommodate all their students and they will operate as normal.

Model 2 recommends dual sessions while Model 3 recommends a rotating schedule.

Helping children cope with starting school again

With everything slowly moving back to the way things were and Covid-19 still a very real threat, Malaysian parents seem to share the same concern — their children’s safety as they go back to school.

In an article published on a local online news publication last month, parents said they were in no rush for schools to reopen.

Their primary concern was for their children’s safety, they said, and that they would prefer a staggered reopening of schools. But there were other concerns as well:

  • That cases of Covid-19 could spike once schools reopen. A common question parents were asking themselves was, “Am I putting my child into a potentially dangerous situation?”;
  • That school staff and teachers should adapt to the new normal before allowing classes to resume;
  • The safety of canteen food. Parents were in favour of having pre-packed food;
  • That new school timings would impact the schedules of working parents;
  • The ability of the child to readjust to school life once again.

Ask any parent and they would agree that these are all valid concerns. No parent would want to put their child into a situation where they could be in danger.

However, there is only so much one can do to make sure a child is safe when they go back to school.

Children must be taught the importance of washing their hands and maintaining good hygiene. (Rawpixel pic)

Encourage the child to follow the precautions taken for their safety

One of the best ways to keep children safe from Cpvid-19 and other diseases is to encourage regular hand washing. It does not need to be a scary conversation, especially for younger children.

Make up a song or do a dance to make the learning fun. Teach the child that even though germs cannot be seen, they could still be there.

Once a child understands why they need to wash their hands, they are more likely to continue.

In addition, show children the proper way to cover a cough or sneeze with their elbow. Ask them to tell you if they start to feel feverish, are coughing or having difficulty breathing.

A child’s mental health is just as important

Apart from checking on the child’s physical health and learning when they go back to school, look out for signs of stress and anxiety.

Fear over the pandemic may be impacting their mental health, and it is important to make it clear that it is okay to feel overwhelmed at times.

A child could also feel nervous about going back to school after being away for months. In situations like this, listening to their feelings, empathising with and supporting them, go a long way.

If the child is worried about bullying, it is important to let them know they are not alone, and they can always talk to their parents or another trusted adult.

Check in with the children daily and ask about their time in school, their activities online or on social media and about their feelings.

Have open conversations about bullying, remind them that everyone deserves to feel safe in school and online.

Bullying is always wrong and the more a parent talks to their child about bullying, the more comfortable they will be about talking about it if they see or experience it.

Some children may not express their emotions verbally, so one should also look out for any anxious or aggressive behaviour that may indicate that something is amiss.

Schooladvisor.my provides information on private and international schools, extra-curricular activities as well as other education-related topics in Malaysia.