Campus delay is needed to avoid Covid surge, says official

University students were caught out on their way to campus when the government postponed registrations for the October session.

KUALA LUMPUR: The postponement of university student registrations for the October session was necessary because of the increase in Covid-19 cases, the director-general of higher education Mohamed Mustafa Ishak said today.

He said it was a difficult decision for the ministry to take, after considering the views and advice of the health ministry as well as all universities involved.

“The country has not completely overcome the threat of the pandemic. There is a consistent increase in Covid-19 cases lately, for example in eastern Sabah which is now a red zone; there are about 7,673 students there and if combined with the number throughout Sabah, it may exceed 10,000 people.

“The decision was made to curb the spread of the outbreak in the community,” he said in an interview on Bernama TV today.

He said the ministry acknowledged the constraints faced by students in terms of finance, logistics as well as accommodation and the ministry had decided to allow students who have arrived on campus to remain while waiting for further instructions.

He said 67,406 new students were affected by the postponement.

800 village internet centres being set up

They can still attend the online orientation programmes of their universities, while those still at home can remain there and follow the orientation and lessons online.

“I do not deny the difficulties faced by students and parents. Each university has already opened its own operations centres to provide students with further information,” he said.

Mustafa said the ministry is also cooperating with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to provide more than 800 village internet centres to assist students facing internet problems.

Airline and bus companies as well as KTM had agreed to allow students to reschedule their journeys to their campuses.

Mustafa said the situation of university students involved a major mobilisation and was unlike that of schools.

“In the case of the UK, when they reopened universities, hundreds of students were infected by Covid-19 including university staff. So it is better to postpone and allow the situation to improve for at least two weeks and if the situation is better, students can return to campus again,” he said.

He said the ministry had borne the cost of food for more than 80,000 students in university campuses at a cost of RM52 million while the cost of sending home more than 57,000 students amounted to RM17.4 million.

“The government had also approved Prihatin aid of RM200 each to more than 841,000 students at a cost of RM168 million. The assistance was given during the first MCO (movement control order) when they were in campus for two months.

“This means the government through the ministry has spent a large sum of funds to help students during the MCO. As such, if the matter recurs, the government would be hard-pressed to provide the full assistance,” he said.