Syazwani Hj Rosli & Azlan Othman
Schools across the country returned to full capacity yesterday, in the fourth phase of the de-escalation plan, as announced by Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman during the COVID-19 press conference last Wednesday.
The recommencement of formal learning settings includes all schools under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA).
As early as 7am, cars formed long queues near school zones, as parents dropped off their children according to the provided timetables, to facilitate social distancing. The near-normal school sessions feature staggered start times for morning attendance, classes, break time and the end of the school day.
Headmistress of Taman Asuhan Kanak-Kanak Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (TASKA YSHHB) Datin Hajah Zainab binti Haji Abdul Wahab told the Bulletin that the school had been making various preparations in anticipation of the returning students, which included rearranging classroom seating and dividing student attendance into groups of two.
TASKA YSHHB is currently adopting the strategy of play-based learning in small groups, on a rotational basis. The school is also considering staggered drop-off and pick-up times for the students, to avoid overcrowding at the main gates.
“Although we are in the fourth phase of de-escalation, parents and guardians are still not allowed to send their children to the classroom, as part of the school’s precautionary measures,” she said.
One parent, Haji Masnon bin Haji Doming, 43, said the near-normal school schedule was a relief to him.
“Some of the students had a blend of online and physical learning, since the easing of restrictions on June 2. Now they are back in a proper classroom for five times a week, which is a huge load off my shoulders,” he said.
Religious school students also took a step towards normality as they returned to classes yesterday.
At RPN Lambak Kanan Religious School, measures such as body temperature checks continue to be carried out for the staff and students.
To cope with the social distancing measures, parents and guardians have been advised to provide their children with hand sanitisers, face masks, clean towels, water bottles and cash for buying food or drinks at the canteen. Unwell students have been told to stay at home until they have fully recovered.
The students have been advised not to share their personal items or food with peers. All activities such as assemblies, sports and face-to-face co-curricular school activities still remain suspended.
Students are also encouraged to perform their Zohor prayer at home, prior to
Hajah Aini, a mother of three, said, “Previously, only a few were attending classes, as vulnerable students were told not to come to school.
Now, the students are given their own codes to allow parents to pick them up after school, to minimise contacts with other students and the school staff.”
Last March, home-pack learning was given to religious school students every week, at drive-throughs. In mid-June, the students attended school once or twice a week, depending on their classes.
Students at higher education institutions also resumed in-person classes yesterday, under a near-normal daily routine.
At Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB), both the returning and new students tried to adapt to a new environment with social distancing and the scanning of QR codes before entering their respective lecture rooms.
In a statement, UTB said that teaching and learning activities would resume its normal arrangement with the number of students in any classroom or lecture theatre limited to the maximum allowed based the Ministry of Health (MoH)’s guidelines on mass gatherings.
Blended learning via online or physical teaching-and-learning for undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programmes will also resume. Meanwhile, Masters by Research and PhD students will continue with their research and laboratory works. Examinations will be held on campus, as scheduled in the University academic calendar.
Current procedures at several checkpoints within the university premises require body temperature checks, attendance, log-ins and the use of BruHealth app.
Staff and students showing signs of illness or symptoms of infection are allowed to work or study from home, subject to the acknowledgement of the respective programme leaders.