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Indonesia moves to reopen schools amid Covid-19 risk

Government leaves final say on whether to bring students back to the classroom to local authorities

Indonesia moves to reopen schools amid Covid-19 risk

The Indonesian government is allowing schools to reopen despite concerns over the continuing high number of coronavirus cases in the country. (Photo: AFP)

Indonesia moved to reopen schools on Jan. 4 despite not having yet contained Covid-19 cases that are still growing significantly every day.

The Ministry of Education and Culture said it will allow schools to reopen but left it up to local authorities whether to do so after taking into account several conditions, including the readiness of schools to implement health protocols.

However, authorities in areas where the number of Covid-19 cases is still high, such as Jakarta, have decided to continue with distance learning.

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Provincial Education Office chief Nahdiana said the Jakarta administration wants to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers and education personnel.

"It’s in everyone’s interests to keep learning from home," she said.

Franciscan Father, Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, said the dangers require careful thought from the schools themselves about whether to reopen.

"We ask schools to seriously consider the safety of their children and to communicate closely with parents," he told UCA News.

"Even if the local government has allowed it, if a school feels it is not ready, it is better to keep using distance learning." 

Frumensius Jemulung, principal of St. Bartholomeus Vocational High School, which focuses on multimedia in Benteng Jawa, East Nusa Tenggara province, said face-to-face learning will restart but on a shift system.

“Each classroom will only be half-full for each lesson,” he said.

He said priority is being given to difficult subjects that students cannot learn on their own.

Retno Listyarti, commissioner of the National Commission for Child Protection, voiced reservations about schools reopening and urged the government to closely monitor the situation.

"Don't let schools become a new cluster for Covid-19,” she said.

She said the move to reopen schools follows a survey the commission conducted in mid-December that saw many teachers and students supporting a return to classrooms.

Some 49 percent of teachers and 78 percent of students supported the move, she said. Generally, the main reason was that a lot of subjects are difficult to learn online.

As of Jan 4, Indonesia had recorded 765,350 Covid-19 cases, of which 110,679 were active, with 22,734 deaths.

Since December, Indonesia has recorded 5,000 to 8,000 new cases each day.

The government has scheduled a national vaccination program, starting in mid-January, first targeting 40.2 million people, namely health workers, public officials and the elderly.

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