Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta – The Indonesian government has decided to reopen all schools for the upcoming academic year starting in July under strict conditions despite the Covid-19 situation remaining dire.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told reporters on June 7 that face-to-face learning "must be held, but with extra precautions."
It has been more than a year since schools in most parts of Indonesia were closed due to the pandemic. Students have had to study online since.
Protocols include allowing only 25 percent of the total number of students to attend classes at a time and limiting student attendance at school to two days a week.
Classes will only last two hours per day, parents can still opt for remote schooling, and all teachers and school staff must be fully vaccinated.
Culture, Research and Technology Minister Nadiem Makarim had earlier recommended that schools reopen since shopping malls, cinemas and offices had already done so.
He also said several surveys conducted by his ministry revealed that nearly 80 percent of parents supported the move.
Speaking with UCA News on June 9, Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, said Catholic schools "are ready to reopen with strict health protocols."
"The government calls on us to think about what is best for our students in this situation... I think it is the right time for us to work hand in hand. Local leaders, teachers, parents and all related parties need to work together to make it possible for students to improve their education," he said.
However, he stressed the importance of prioritizing students' safety. "Whatever happens, student health is the main concern," he said, adding that his organization has called on Catholic schools to strictly follow health protocols.
Franciscan Sister Maria Rosalima, headmistress of Marsudirini Elementary School in East Jakarta, said plans are in place for her school to reopen. Each classroom will have only up to 13 students, who will have to sit at least 1.5 meters apart.
"Many parents were initially reluctant to send their children to school. But now, with the new academic year approaching, they are now asking when we will reopen," she said.
As of June 8, Indonesia had recorded 1,869,325 Covid-19 cases and 51,992 deaths.