Wani Roslan & Izah Azahari
Schools are slowly welcoming students back in limited numbers, after being shut for more than two months following the COVID-19 outbreak in the Sultanate.
Yesterday, Jigsaw Primary School distributed face shields and reusable masks to the returning students. Embossed with the school logo, the masks were personally sponsored by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Principal of Jigsaw Primary School Helen Chin.
“I hope there will be no more infections, so that normal classes can resume again. Although we had online teaching sessions, it isn’t nearly as effective as face-to-face teaching,” she said.
“We have 30 children in Year 6A which has been divided into two classes consisting of 15 students each. We did the same with Year 6B, which also has 30 students. The seating arrangements are designed to keep them separate.”
The school has also adopted temperature checks for the students, staff members, visitors and parents, as well as floor markers for social distancing.
Officers from the Ministry of Education (MoE) also visited the school. A social distancing briefing was delivered by Kassim bin Haji Ibrahim from the MoE’s Private Education Division, while Sofian Erwan bin Mohamad from the MoE’s Private Education Division was present to ensure the school adhered to COVID-19 preventive measures issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Jigsaw Primary School Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Medical Advisor Dr Jimmy Chin briefed the students on how to use face masks and face shields, along with the correct method of washing hands.
At the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) Primary School, students had their temperature checked at the entrance, while social distancing markers were placed in strategic areas around the school, including corridors, classrooms, toilets and the canteen.
“Alhamdulillah, the students’ return to school went smoothly. I also inspected all the classrooms to ensure they were well-ventilated,” said YSHHB Primary School Headmistress Hajah Mariam binti Haji Ladi.
She added, “The students were encouraged to wear face masks and bring along an extra hygiene pack, even though the classrooms are equipped with hand sanitisers. The teachers have been assigned to supervise and take care of the students throughout the learning periods. They are not allowed to leave the classes without supervision.
“The students have also been briefed on preventive measures, such as washing their hands before and after eating. Only one student is allowed to go to the toilet at a time.”
YSHHB Primary School teacher Rahmah binti Haji Ismail said that returning to teaching has enabled her to conduct revisions of topics that were taught during the online sessions.
“I could see that the students were excited to get back into the classrooms and meet their friends in normal settings as before,” she said.
“With the coming PSR examinations, I hope the students can return to a normal schedule and complete the entire syllabus, especially for English.”
Mathematics teacher Marhani binti Omar said, “I resumed classes with a new topic. Face-to face teaching is easier for me. The other topics that were taught online will be covered again through revisions.”
At Pengiran Anak Puteri Besar Primary School in Sungai Kebun Headmistress Salinawati binti Mohd Zainal explained that the school is currently using Model Zero, which sees Year 6 students coming into school for four days and having one day of home-based learning (HBL) per week.
“There are 48 students altogether for Year 6, who will be undergoing Primary School Assessment (PSR), but we have 415 students in total, from all levels,” she said. “We will see what the updates are from the Department of Schools in the next two weeks, as to whether we should proceed to Model One or Model Two, which will include Years 4 and 5.”
The school is ensuring that each class is able to accommodate a one-metre physical distancing for each student. At this stage, each class has a maximum of 16 students, divided into four classes.
“We’ve also pulled in teachers from other levels to teach the students and we share lesson plans between teachers for every topic so there will be a discussion among teachers by subject,” said Salinawati.
“We are currently focussing on PSR subjects so every class has eight subjects with two teachers in each class.
“Apart from the main teacher, there is a shadow teacher who will be able to replace the main one, as a back-up plan, if there are instances where the main teacher has to carry out self-isolation or is not available to teach.
“Furthermore, students are attending school as per normal time, but have staggered periods, where if two classes go for break-time between 9.30am to 10am, the other two classes will have break between 10.00am to 10.30am, so that teachers will be able to control the crowd of students. The school has also prepared routes for students to follow when they are out of class during break time, and the teachers and security staff are scheduled to monitor them.”
She also explained that classes are resuming with easy subjects to ease the students back into learning and build their confidence.
Meanwhile, Sungai Kebun and Sungai Asam have been assigned as drop-off and pick-up points for the students. Those dropped off directly at school will have their temperatures checked at the lobby, while those dropped off at the bus meeting points will be checked at designated locations before entering the bus. To further ensure the safety and well-being of all students and staff at the school, teachers are also monitored and required to carry out self-assessment prior to scanning the BruHealth QR code each time they enter and leave the school premises.
The staff rooms are now divided into sections to reduce the density of teachers in their office space and allow for social distancing, with a maximum of four teachers in designated empty classrooms.
The teachers are also encouraged to wear face masks and physically distance themselves while teaching in the classroom.
“Teachers have mixed feelings about schools re-opening, but some are very eager to meet their students, especially Year 6 students,” said Salinawati.
“Most of our teachers are very willing to come to school to teach. The lack of new cases, as announced in the recent press conferences, has instilled confidence in them.”