We must not let our children become a lost generation after the long period of boredom and isolated learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein restrictions demotivated them to study
Jakarta (ANTARA) - Children in Jakarta awakened with a new spirit to begin their first day of school last Monday (August 30, 2021) after the authorities allowed schools to recommence face-to-face learning.

The children were relieved from their boredom: they could finally meet their friends in school; online classes and bland video interactions with teachers and friends were never fun, right?

The resumption of offline school is expected to help pupils be more motivated to study, improve their comprehension, and resolve difficulties regarding lessons with their teacher more flexibly. School reopening would be particularly convenient for vocational school pupils who need constant training and practical classes to master their vocation.

Parents of pupils who have rejoined offline school activities can breathe a little sigh of relief as they are partially free of expensive Internet bills and the necessity of spending time monitoring their children's learning activities.

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How are schools addressing parents' concerns?

By deciding to allow schools to reopen, the government must answer one of the main questions the parents are certainly asking: Is the safety of schools assured?

With the joy of seeing their offspring leave for school after a long gap, parents' concerns have now shifted to school safety amid COVID-19 spread, particularly where schools are located close to vulnerable areas.

For instance, Jubilee Senior High School in North Jakarta is located near the Kemayoran Athletes' Village, which is currently serving as the main COVID-19 emergency hospital for the city.

To answer parental concerns and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, strict health protocol and activity restriction measures have been implemented at the Jubilee School.

Classes and all school rooms are being sprayed with disinfectant before and after classes. School administrators are arranging pupils' study tables at a designated distance to maintain physical distance, and pupils' movement outside class is being restricted, except to go to the toilet or home.

Government regulations also require school administrators to provide sufficient and proper toilets, hand-washing facilities, and hand sanitizers before being allowed to reopen.

The Jubilee School is also limiting attendance to 25 percent of the total 273 students, which is far within the tolerable percentage. The Home Affairs Ministry has capped attendance in schools to 50 percent.

Besides individual schools, the Jakarta authorities are also providing 70 free school buses for pupils, with health protocols and cleanliness in the buses assured. The free buses are expected to complete pupils' protection from COVID-19 from home, on the road, and in school.

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How is the government assessing and monitoring reopened schools?

Around 610 schools of multiple levels in Jakarta have been participating in the face-to-face learning program since August 30, 2021. If the COVID-19 situation in Jakarta improves further, it is possible that more schools would be allowed to reopen.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has confirmed that the authorities are performing a daily assessment of reopened schools and potential schools that will be allowed to open in the next phase of school reopening.

As part of the assessment, the authorities are reviewing school infrastructure and facilities readiness and personnel preparedness. If schools pass the assessment, the authorities are issuing a decree to allow them to participate in offline learning activities.

Jakarta's Education Office has also urged schools to coordinate with healthcare facilities before and during the school reopening to allow the schools to mitigate possible health issues among pupils or teachers.

The Education Office has also encouraged pupils and teachers to get vaccinated before attending offline school.

Currently, 659 thousand, or 92.5 percent, of the total children in the 12-17 age group in Jakarta and nearly 85 percent of teachers in the province have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Is a potential lost generation a common concern?

"We must not let our children become a lost generation after the long period of boredom and isolated learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein restrictions demotivated them to study," experts have said.

This is because children who are studying today will lead the country in the future. Therefore, it is essential for us to raise children's willingness to learn and encourage them to continue studying.

Besides parents, the regional government has also taken this issue seriously by arranging measures to ensure children can study safely. The authorities have spent budget funds for ensuring the protection of children during face-to-face learning activities by providing free buses and mobilizing municipal police to monitor school activities.

The provision of 70 free school buses is the right step, but the government must improve the measure as the available buses are insufficient to cater to 610 reopened schools, not counting schools that are expected to reopen in the future.

Mobilization of municipal police can also have unintended consequences as the presence of police platoons at school gates along with students could result in crowding.

In conclusion, school reopening and resumption of face-to-face learning activities indeed would improve our children's enthusiasm to learn. This being the most important goal as their future success depends on their motivation to study today.

Though there is plenty of room for improvement in the implementation of offline learning, a glimpse of hope for our children has finally arrived with schools reopening after a long time.

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Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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