UM under fire over handling of students from China

Suara Siswa UM is angry and disappointed at the university’s handling of isolation procedures for students from China and handling of student volunteers.

KUALA LUMPUR: A coalition of student associations in Universiti Malaya (UM) has taken the university’s management to task over its isolation procedures for students from China due to the Covid-19 outbreak, saying it was an “absolute blunder”.

Suara Siswa UM spokesman Yap Wen Ching, 22, said the isolation exercise for these students, who had only recently entered the country, should have been done by external parties such as the health authorities, not university volunteers.

He also alleged that occasionally these students from China, who were supposed to be in isolation, were allowed to roam around the university campus.

Yap said volunteers were not given any professional guidelines to follow.

This evening, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the government had not been informed that UM volunteers have been required to attend to students from China.

She said the Education Ministry would look into the matter. “University authorities must take the responsibility of providing protection to all concerned, be they volunteers or staff,” she said. “This is among the instructions of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad that any staff member or member of the public at risk (from the Covid-19 virus) must be protected to the best of our abilities.”

Wan Azizah’s remarks were made at a press conference here on the latest developments concerning coronavirus infections.

The UM students have urged the university administration to apologise for failing to implement the isolation policy properly and Yap called on students to skip future lectures if the management failed to guarantee the safety of students from coronavirus infection.

“The UM’s handling has been an absolute blunder as far as the isolation exercise is concerned. This is an ill-planned policy and they have cowardly sent students to bear the burden of the havoc they’ve created.

“This matter is important for us to highlight because it’s serious and dangerous. This has to do with the health and safety of students,” he said at a press conference outside the university residence here today.

UM and other universities has made it mandatory for students from China to be isolated for 14 days to ensure they are free of the virus. For UM, these students have been placed at the 10th residential college for this period.

However, isolated students, who started coming in from Feb 5, were given temporary passes for them to leave the premises to attend to important matters or retrieve their belongings.

Umsu president Akmal Hazieq Rumaizi (second from right) speaking to reporters.

UM Student Union (Umsu) president Akmal Hazieq Rumaizi, 24, criticised the university’s treatment of student volunteers. Akmal told reporters that the group was scolded by a UM officer at one point, despite working tirelessly.

He demanded an apology from UM after volunteers had complained about being forced to carry out tasks beyond their assigned job scope.

They were initially tasked with only registering the China nationals, but their duties were later extended to manage the students in waiting rooms, distribute food to them and even replace their bedsheets.

He said there were also no academic officers present at the residential college to answer the multiple queries from the students placed in isolation, leaving the volunteers to bear the brunt of the students’ frustrations.

Akmal said an invitation had been sent to UM’s vice-chancellor, deputy vice-chancellors and heads of the relevant departments for a meeting with the various student associations tomorrow afternoon.

He said if this matter was not resolved, they will raise the matter with the health authorities.

FMT has contacted the university’s management for a response.

At a press conference at the health ministry earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the university had to take responsibility for the protection of its students.