Jakarta – As Indonesia seeks ways to reopen schools in January, an expert has reminded the government and the public that such an approach carries the high risk of COVID-19 transmission, especially as children are not prioritized in the upcoming vaccination drive.
East Nusa Tenggara Education Council chief Simor Riwu Kaho said that the upcoming vaccination program prioritizes recipients aged between 18 and 59 years old, kompas.id reported on Saturday.
Meanwhile, those aged under 17 years will not receive the future COVID-19 vaccine although it is this age group who will be expected to return to school.
Therefore, the government has to consider preparing children's immunity ahead of the school reopening.
Last month, Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim announced the government would give the power to local administrations, school administrations and parents to decide whether their schools should reopen for in-classroom teaching, taking into consideration the risks of COVID-19 transmission.
"The school reopening can be done immediately or in stages according to each region's capability and the decision of their regional heads. The schools wanting to reopen must fulfill the checklist [requirements] for face-to-face teaching and health protocols," said Nadiem Makarim on Nov. 20.
The policy is a major departure from the previous school reopening policy set out in June. Previously, only schools in green or yellow zones were allowed to conduct face-to-face teaching. The new policy allows schools in red zones to reopen.
Kupang city, for example, is mulling a plan to reopen schools that are ready to conduct activities with proper health protocols. The readiness includes providing the school campuses with clean water and soap for handwashing, body temperature guns and making sure that students can maintain physical distancing, as well as avoiding the gathering of crowds.The city is planning to conduct a trial reopening by allowing a small group of students, comprising 25 percent of total students, to attend school. If the trial succeeds, the school will be allowed to increase the number of attending students to 50 percent.
Elsewhere, authorities in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra, are still considering the school reopening plan.
Deputy Jakarta governor Ahmad Riza Patria said on Monday that the Jakarta administration was still studying the plan to avoid making any mistakes, antaranews.com reported last week.
"The Jakarta administration has yet to decide on reopening schools. We are still studying the plan," he said. Riza said the administration did not want the school reopening to trigger new cases, as had happened in other countries.
Therefore, the Jakarta administration was preparing supporting facilities for online education, such as a free internet service called JAK Wifi that can be accessed by all residents of Jakarta.
"Basically, we hope the education program can run as [planned], amid the pandemic," he said. The Palembang city administration, meanwhile, is reluctant to reopen schools as the city has been classified as a red zone. (nkn)