Juwita Trisna Rahayu – Lately, some schools in several Indonesian cities have had to return to online learning after detecting significant COVID-19 transmission.
Thus, teachers and students have again been relegated to using screens for learning activities, just a couple of weeks after the government officially instructed the resumption of face-to-face learning (PTM) nationwide from January 3, 2022.
As of Friday (January 28, 2022), at least 120 students in Jakarta have reported COVID-19 cases, with 90 schools shuttering temporarily.
The schools, ranging from kindergarten to senior high schools, are located across five Jakarta regions: 3 schools in North Jakarta, 9 in West Jakarta, 5 in Central Jakarta, 31 in South Jakarta, and 42 in East Jakarta.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria said that with the increasing transmission of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, in Jakarta, his administration is considering all available inputs to evaluate 100-percent face-to-face learning.
The implementation of 100-percent PTM was in accordance with the central government's policy that was promulgated through a joint decree (SKB) of four ministers, he noted.
Two elementary schools in Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta, recently suspended 100-percent face-to-face classes after some teachers tested positive for COVID-19.
"If I am not mistaken, two elementary schools have been closed. They are SD Tanjung Duren Selatan 01 and 05," chief of the West Jakarta Education and Educators' Section II, Masduki, said.
However, he emphasized that schools need to close for five days if any teachers or students are exposed to COVID-19.
"Based on the joint decree of four ministers, it must be closed for five days. During the period of the given days, classes must be held online," he added.
Meanwhile, Yogyakarta's education, youth, and sports service has announced it will temporarily suspend 100-percent face-to-face learning in senior high schools and vocational schools starting next week.
The service's deputy head, Suhirman, said that the revised policy has been issued since two students at SMAN 8 Yogyakarta have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.
"The learning will not likely be implemented 100 percent, it could be 50 percent of the classroom cap. We will impose the revised policy on 100-percent face-to-face learning on Monday (January 31, 2022)," he informed.
The COVID-19 cases detected in the SMA have not been the only reason to revise the policy on face-to-face learning suspension, health protocols in the school environment were also among the considerations, he said.
Based on the school principal's report, crowds of students often gathered during break time after face-to-face learning was resumed on January 10, 2022, he noted.
"Based on the school principal's observation during learning or when the students returned home from school, many of them took off their masks," he added.
Vice President Ma'ruf Amin had earlier appealed to schools to adjust face-to-face learning in accordance with the current condition of COVID-19 transmission in each region.
"Despite the 100-percent implementation of face-to-face learning, schools should automatically reduce the cap to 50 percent once transmission rates increase," he stressed.
Amin affirmed the government's preparedness in issuing policies on COVID-19 case handling at schools.
"If the regulations have been already made, it means everything is prepared. If there are any increases in COVID-19 cases at schools of over 5 percent, the schools must be temporarily closed," he underlined.
Separately, head of public relations at Jakarta's Education Office, Taga Radja Gah, said that 100-percent face-to-face learning will continue to be carried out in the capital.
However, the policy could be revised if the PPKM level in Jakarta is raised because PPKM level is one of the benchmarks for 100-percent PTM evaluation, he said.
According to the joint decree, only regions with Level 1 or 2 PPKM can conduct 100-percent face-to-face learning, he elaborated.
If the PPKM status in Jakarta becomes Level 3, then a new policy will be formulated, which will allow face-to-face learning at 50-percent capacity, much like in 2021, the official explained.
As per data provided by the Jakarta provincial government, 10,429 schools in the capital launched 100-percent face-to-face learning at the beginning of 2022.
The Education and Teacher Association (P2G) has urged the Jakarta provincial administration to suspend 100-percent face to face learning following reports of an increase in COVID-19 infections in 90 schools.
"As many as 90 schools in Jakarta have closed and suspended 100-percent face-to-face learning since the students and teachers tested positive for COVID-19," P2G's national coordinator, Satriwan Salim, said.
Such a condition has fueled concern among parents and students over the conduct of face-to-face learning that is considered unsafe now, according to Salim.
Earlier, the association had requested the Regional COVID-19 Handling Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of 100-percent PTM implementation in schools.
"We urge the Education Service or the Task Force to conduct inspections at schools. I am sure that if they inspect schools, then several violations during the 100-percent PTM would come to light," Jakarta P2G secretary Abdul Rahman said.
The Education Service should not only seek written reports but also monitor schools to ensure the implementation of health protocols during full offline schooling, he added.
P2G has requested that officers, including from the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) and Task Force Team, or other personnel, inspect schools during crucial hours – from around 12 p.m. to 13 p.m. local time – to ensure that students go back home directly from school, he said.
"We should take this step as a preventive measure to prevent children from going to places after school. We hope to limit the virus transmission," Rahman added.
In addition, parents and homeroom teachers can communicate with each other after school hours to check the students' whereabouts, he suggested.
The P2G has criticized school COVID-19 Task Forces that are mostly only active during school hours though they are required to monitor students' movement on their way to school and back home, Rahman remarked.