‘Student bubble’ good move if done well

Prof Datuk Mohd Fadzil Abdul Rahman

KUCHING: Having a ‘Student bubble’ to allow international students to safely enter Sarawak would be a good move if implemented well.

At the same time it must done with strict adherence to safety procedures, opined Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) deputy vice chancellor Prof Datuk Mohd Fadzil Abdul Rahman.

He said the safety of students and the campus was of utmost importance.

“As long as there is a mechanism to ensure that all these students are well covered, the safety of the campus and community is well taken care of, and then there is no issue with that concept,” he said when contacted on Tuesday (Nov 24).

On Monday (Nov 23), Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg expressed openness to the possibility of implementing a “student bubble” concept in Sarawak, which would allow international students to enter the state, undergo quarantine and Covid-19 tests, and then resume their tertiary education in a face-to-face manner.

Fadzil echoed this sentiment, but added that potential risks or threats to the campus must be anticipated.

“But I think if these students are required to undergo all the procedures such as Covid-19 swab tests and quarantine before they are allowed to come in, and if they follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) strictly, then there should not be any problems,” he said.

He believed that if a “student bubble” concept was implemented in Sarawak, incoming foreign students would have to be guaranteed as negative for Covid-19 before joining the campus.

“To me, what is most important is we have to ensure that they are not carriers, especially considering that they are travelling from overseas,” he said.

If the ‘student bubble’ concept is implemented well, it will be a good way for lecturers and students to enjoy face-to-face teaching and learning, which is much more interesting and enjoyable to both parties, he pointed out.

Fadzil, who is also Unimas Covid-19 Task Force chairman, shared that he had asked around among lecturers and students and discovered that the majority of them preferred face-to-face classes over online ones.

“They go for online classes as an alternative because there is no other option at this time,” he said.

He pointed out that allowing international students to enter Sarawak would allow them to have the university life experience they were missing out on.

“Students want to have an environment where they can learn, experience life on campus, and mix with their peers. This is a more suitable and conducive environment compared to being isolated in a room speaking to the computer,” he said.

With regard to a Covid-19 vaccine potentially being available within the next one or two years, he cautioned that viruses were very dynamic and could mutate into another form, which would be another threat.

“We never know. So beyond the ‘student bubble’, what is most important is the awareness of each and every one of us – regardless of whether they are local or international – to abide strictly to the SOPs and regulations in place,” said Fadzil.