Education Ministry insists on reopening schools for the sake of children’s mental health

Students at a Jakarta school observing health protocols during a trial run for the reopening of schools in the capital. Photo: Jakarta Education Board
Students at a Jakarta school observing health protocols during a trial run for the reopening of schools in the capital. Photo: Jakarta Education Board

Indonesia’s Culture, Education, Research and Technology Minister Nadiem Makarim is insisting on resuming face-to-face learning in schools in July, despite great concerns that reopening schools would lead to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

During a virtual discussion yesterday, the former Gojek boss said he is worried about children’s mental health if they have to go another year of school from home.

“It’s clear we’ve been doing remote learning for too long. We can no longer wait and sacrifice education and the mental health of our students,” he said.

The Indonesian government is targeting schools across the country to partially reopen by the time the new academic year commences in July, pending the success of a vaccination program for some 5 million teachers and school staff.

“Partial” in this case means limiting classroom capacity to 50 percent and imposing a rotation between in-classroom and online learning for students. Parents also have the right to opt their children out of returning to school.

The Indonesia Pediatric Society (IDAI) has not given official approval to the government’s school reopening plan, while the Commission for the Protection of Indonesian Children (KPAI) has criticized the plan, citing the case of a high school in Padang that became a COVID-19 cluster, in which at least 10 people were infected, after it partially reopened earlier this year.

However, the Health Ministry previously said that reopening schools poses a small risk as children make up a small proportion of the country’s caseload, and that most young people who were infected “recover on their own.

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