We hope to start (face-to-face learning activities) as soon as possible because we want the students to immediately get the knowledge back in school
Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia has managed to overcome a drastic COVID-19 spike triggered by the Delta variant and culminating in July 2021 after imposing tough public activity restrictions dubbed as PPKM level 4 for nearly two months. The national task force for COVID-19, on September 19, 2021, recorded 1,954 fresh confirmed cases and 117 deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the tally to 4,213,414 cases and the death toll to 141,826.

The figures showed a sharp decline compared to 56,757 fresh confirmed cases recorded on July 15, 2021, and daily deaths at 2,069 on July 29, as Indonesia's daily COVID-19 cases hit a record when the country faced the second COVID-19 wave that had overwhelmed the nation's medical facilities.

Following the significant drop in new cases, the government has decided to ease the semi-lockdown measures and lower the PPKM levels to 2 or 1 in several regions.

Another factor leading to the decision is that the country's vaccination rate is relatively high, even higher than the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The authorities have administered 90,361,002 first shots, accounting for 43.3 percent of the target of over 208 million, and 50,688,220 second shots, or 24.3 percent of September 29, 2021, afternoon.

The government rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program on January 13, 2021, for healthcare workers, public service officers, elderly people, and teachers. Later, students aged 12 years old and above were also covered.

As nearly all teachers and many students have been vaccinated, a face-to-face learning process becomes possible, so several schools are allowed to open under strict health protocols.

"We hope to start (face-to-face learning activities) as soon as possible because we want the students to immediately get the knowledge back in school," President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said recently while reviewing COVID-19 vaccinations at the State High School 3 in Wajo District, South Sulawesi.

The President, however, urged students and teachers to keep applying health protocols, especially wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining a safe distance.

Related news: President Jokowi reviews mass vaccinations for students in Banten

Education, Culture, Research, and Technology Minister Nadiem Makarim, on September 14, 2021, urged schools in regions with PPKM status at levels 1, 2 and 3 to not hesitate to hold face-to-face offline school activities.

Schools should not delay offline learning activities, pending vaccination of teachers and students, as the national coverage for teachers has reached around 60 percent, Makarim emphasized.

A total of 490,217 schools in areas with level 1 to 3 PPKM are allowed to conduct face-to-face learning. However, Makarim stressed that the pupils' parents have the final say on allowing their children to attend offline activities at school.

The education minister explained that the joint decision of four ministers on learning activities during the pandemic offered flexibility for the regional authority to plan and implement face-to-face offline school activities.

The joint decision sets a maximum attendance of 18 pupils in one classroom and five pupils per classroom at pre-school level and instructs strict health protocol enforcement, school canteen closure, and restricts extra-curricular activities.

Related news: 490,217 schools in Indonesia conduct limited face-to-face learning

Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga has urged all parties to implement the 5 SIAP (5 READY) concept during the face-to-face learning process.

"The role of parents, teachers, schools, local governments, and the community is greatly needed. Thus the children can continue learning optimally without being infected with COVID-19," she said September 9.

Under the Children SIAP component, children must be made to understand and comply with the health protocols. The concept of 5 SIAP comprises Children SIAP, Families SIAP, Education Units SIAP, Infrastructure SIAP, and Local Government and Communities SIAP, she explained.

Family SIAP means that parents/caregivers have to prepare for the needs of the children and build their understanding, so they comply with the health protocols.

Education Units SIAP requires academic units to be ready to implement health protocols. Infrastructure SIAP refers to ensuring infrastructure such as safe routes for school and public transportation meets the requirements set in the health protocols, she informed.

Related news: Schools must halt offline learning if COVID case detected: Adisasmito

Lastly, Local Government and Community SIAP are meant to ensure that all regional and community leaders support the reopening of schools and are ready to oversee learning activities.

"If the SIAP points of 1-5 are not ready, then the PTM must be postponed," the minister said.

Data of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in Early August showed that around 39 per cent of around 270 thousand school units nationwide have reopened and commenced offline learning activities, Sri Wahyuningsih, the ministry's Director for Elementary Schools, said,

She urged school administrators to establish COVID-19 task forces in their respective schools for health protocol enforcement monitoring at the school and assuring the health of students and teachers.

"(A COVID-19 task force is important because) a safe and secure school is our priority," she said.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 Handling Task Force spokesperson, Prof. Wiku Adisasmito, has asked schools to halt face-to-face learning if a new COVID-19 case is detected in school areas.

According to data from the education ministry, as of September 23, 2021, only 2.77 percent out of 47,033 schools have reported COVID-19 cases during face-to-face learning.

"Ensure that students and teaching staff are disciplined in following health protocols," he urged.

Many students participating in online learning remotely for months have welcomed the government's policy to resume face-to-face learning activities.

"Online learning is challenging for us who are majoring in fashion. The material, if given online, is difficult to understand. Face-to-face learning helps us to understand the subject better," Hasna Nabilashe, a student of a vocational senior high school, said.

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Editor: Suharto
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