Long-silent school bells ring again

KUALA LUMPUR: The long-silent school bells rang today as many of these institutions reopened their doors for face-to-face lessons for secondary students sitting for 2020 public examinations postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The rest of the schoolchildren, from primary pupils up to the new Form Five students, will follow their lessons online from their homes in this new school year, at least for now.

Clearly absent at school today were the nervous and anxious Year One pupils and the excited chatter of their primary and most of the secondary seniors.

A recent surge in the number of Covid-19 cases up to four digits has prompted the Education Ministry to keep the majority of pupils and students at home and have them follow lessons online.

Those who came to school today will be sitting for any of the following postponed 2020 public examinations: Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM), Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) and Diploma Vokasional Malaysia (DVM) as well as any equivalent international examinations.

As of now, the ministry has announced that the SPM, SVM and STAM examinations are scheduled to begin on Feb 22 and the STPM, on March 8. Details are forthcoming.

Schools closed in March last year with the imposition of the movement control order and reopened on July 15 for Year Five and Year Six pupils and Remove as well as Form One to Form Four students. Year One to Year Four students returned to school on July 22.

However, in November, schools were forced to close again with the advent of the third wave of the pandemic.

Bernama reporters on the ground reported seeing many happy faces among the students who turned up today despite the strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place, including body temperature check and use of the face mask.

In KUALA LUMPUR and PUTRAJAYA, the students came as early as 7 am, all looking cheerful, to meet up with classmates and teachers after the long eight-month break.

Student Irfan Danial Suhaimi, 18, of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Putrajaya Precinct 9 (2) said he just couldn’t wait to get back to his books again with his friends in preparation for the SPM examination.

“After such a long time, it’s good to be able to have our group discussions again and we have a lot of revision to do before the examination,” he said.

At SMK Batu Muda, Sentul, in Kuala Lumpur, students were seen being briefed by the school management on the SOPs to be adhered to for everyone to be safe in order for the school session to run smoothly.

In PERAK, a total of 28,637 students will be sitting for the SPM examination.

A check at several schools in Ipoh saw students and teachers complying strictly with the SOPs, including physical distancing. Some of them were wearing colourful face masks with fancy designs.

Perak Education director Dr Suhaimi Mohamed Ali said the face-to-face learning would involve a total of 40,810 students while 361,245 others go through the PdPR.

In PERLIS, some students were not in their school attire as certain schools had been given this flexibility to alleviate the burden of families who could not afford to buy new uniforms for their children in this difficult period.

In TERENGGANU, schools reopened to cater to the 22,926 candidates who will be sitting for the 2020 major examinations, with State Education Department monitoring the situation to ensure that the SOPs are strictly adhered to among students and staff.

Meanwhile, in KEDAH, a total of 32,386 SPM, STPM and STAM candidates were back in school today, looking lively and motivated to start preparing for their examination.

In SELANGOR, to ensure that teachers and the 72,474 SPM candidates in the state adhered to the SOPs, officers from the Education Department have been instructed to visit the schools regularly to monitor the situation.

In KELANTAN, parents whose children were present in school today are hopeful that the school administration would take the necessary steps to ensure Covid-19 infection is curbed throughout the face-to-face learning session.

Meanwhile in JOHOR, Menteri Besar Datuk Ir Hasni Mohammad spent about an hour observing the first day of school at SMK Aminuddin Baki here. He hoped the learning session for the 55,520 examination candidates in the state would run smoothly.

In PAHANG, despite the floods on Jan 3, the reopening of schools was not affected as clean-up operations were immediately carried out with the help of parents and government agencies, soon after the flood waters had receded.

In SABAH, Education Department officers were deployed in every school throughout the state to monitor the situation and ensure that the SOPs were strictly adhered to by everyone.

In PENANG, Royal Malaysia Police school liaison officers have been stationed at all secondary schools in the state throughout the MCO implementation.

Despite the bleak atmosphere in Melaka with the MCO imposition, happy, jovial faces were seen as students turned up on the first day of school eagerly disinfecting their hands before marching to their classrooms.

In NEGERI SEMBILAN, the reopening of 125 secondary schools for 15,918 examination candidates in the state also went off without a hitch as students dutifully complied with the new norms. – Bernama