Indonesian Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim says the government wants to reopen all schools in January despite there being no guarantees of the Covid-19 pandemic ending by then. (Photo courtesy of kemdikbud.go.id)
The Indonesian government has instructed all schools to be ready to reopen in January despite there being no guarantee the coronavirus pandemic will have flattened by then.
Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim said on Nov. 20 that schools must be prepared to reopen following months of distance learning.
However, a final decision on whether to open and how lessons are conducted will depend on consultations between local governments, schools and parents.
“Parents will be free to determine whether to allow their children to go to school or not,” Makarim said, adding that the government will make sure that schools are ready to reopen.
In August, Makarim permitted some schools in low-risk areas to resume classes, but now the government wants all schools up and running again.
Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, welcomed the move but said much would depend on the Covid-19 situation in each region.
“I support the policy but the government must ensure that schools are implementing safety measures so that they will not be hotbeds of Covid-19 transmission,” the priest told UCA News.
If the situation does not allow a school to reopen, the government must help improve the way children are taught online, he said.
Retno Listyarti, from the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, said her organization would help ensure health protocols are observed.
“Just relying on wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing is not enough. Swab testing of students and teachers is also needed,” she said.
Dr. Felix Gunawan, director of the Association of Voluntary Health Services of Indonesia, a Catholic group, said swab testing might be a problem “as it will be costly and parents or schools will likely have to pay for it.”
However, Theresia Mai Liani, the mother of two elementary school pupils in Jakarta, said she would be reluctant to send her children back to school amid the pandemic.
She said the government must be prudent and not reopen schools until it’s safe for children and they have vaccines.
As of Nov 22, Indonesia had recorded 497,668 coronavirus cases and 15,884 deaths. More than 4,000 new cases are being recorded in the country each day.