Jakarta – People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker Bambang Soesatyo has urged the Education and Culture Ministry to reassess its decision to allow the reopening of schools in regions still deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission.
He called on the government to prioritize the health and safety of students and teachers, saying that the ministry should have consulted with the national COVID-19 recovery committee and epidemiologists before allowing in-person learning to resume in "yellow zones".
"I urge the government, in this case the Education and Culture Ministry, to thoroughly reassess its policy, and to take into account the feedback from the national COVID-19 recovery committee so as to prevent new COVID-19 [infection] clusters," Bambang said in a written statement on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.
In-person learning, he said, should serve as a last resort only if remote learning proved to be unfeasible.
He went on to say that yellow zones, or moderate-risk areas, could potentially turn into areas with higher transmission risks, namely orange or red zones, without strict adherence to existing health protocols.
The ministry has previously issued a joint ministerial decree (SKB) along with the Religious Affairs Ministry, the Health Ministry and the Home Ministry that allows the reopening of schools in regions designated as green and yellow zones.
Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makariem said on Friday that school reopening in green and yellow zones must be done in compliance with the procedures established by the local COVID-19 task force in the respective regions.
"In-person learning in green and yellow zones is permitted as long as the local COVID-19 task force gives its approval," Nadiem said. "Schools may not resume in-person learning if there's no approval from the local administration or parents."
He noted a number of online learning hindrances that had made the process less than optimal for students, teachers and parents alike, such as lackluster access to decent internet connection and increased psychological pressure due to isolation.
The Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) criticized the new policy, saying that the change risked creating new infection clusters at schools. The group has received reports of at least 180 teachers and students from across the nation who have tested positive for the virus.
Official data shows 57 percent of Indonesian students currently live in red and orange zones, while the remaining 43 percent are in green and yellow zones across 276 cities and regencies. (rfa)