Jakarta – The question of whether we should send our kids back to school is not easy to answer, with parents caught in a dilemma between having their children exposed to a dangerous virus or having to help them study online while working at home.
While parents should make their own choices, the government has no other option but to give children a chance to go back to school safely for the sake of the quality education they deserve.
It has been nearly two years since children were asked to stay at home and learn remotely using computers and other devices. A consensus has been reached among parents and teachers that online learning, as it stands, does not really work, as it fails to provide the same experience and quality as an in-person education.
Even Education, Culture, Research and Technology Minister Nadiem Makarim, who has been preaching about the need to deploy digital technology to improve our lives, is aware of the limitations of online learning and has been adamant that children should return to schools and make up for the loss of learning over the past years.
We believe his policy is the right thing to do and should not be seen as a reckless move on the part of the minister. Now that the pandemic is under some semblance of control, we can more confidently resume in-class instruction.
Indonesia has been successful at flattening the curve of infection after the deadly Delta wave of the virus in July and August of last year, with daily cases hovering under 500 since December. Most regions are now enforcing level 1 or 2 public activity restrictions (PPKM), which provide greater freedom.
The nation's vaccination rate is also picking up. According to the education ministry, more than 80 percent of teaching staff has been vaccinated. More than 78 percent of students aged 12-17 years old have taken the first dose of the vaccine and 58 percent of them have been fully vaccinated.
The government only recently began inoculating children between 6 and 11 years old. It is expected that the jab drive for the age group will pick up soon as it is easier to organize vaccination for school children.
The risks of infection have not disappeared. The government has made it clear that that it will require schools to start "limited" in-person teaching activities.
Only regions under level 1 or 2 PPKM and with 80 percent of teachers and 50 percent of elderly people vaccinated will be allowed to resume in-person education with all students. The duration of instruction will be limited to six hours per day.
Regions under PPKM level 3 or with about 40 percent of teaching staff and 10 percent of elderly people vaccinated may only resume in-person education with 50 percent of students for four hours per day.
The Omicron variant may have changed the equation, but recent studies have shown that the variant is less virulent. The local transmission of the variant has yet to lead to a considerable uptick in hospitalization.
It is only natural for some parents to be apprehensive, even though many of them are also struggling to maintain their well-being with the extra burden of home-schooling their children. But there is no doubt that children struggle more with their online studies, having been deprived of the opportunity to play with and learn from each other.
It's been too long, folks. Let the kids out.