Myanmar to Reopen Schools in July with COVID-19 Challenges

By Thiha Lwin 15 May 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar government is preparing to reopen basic education schools in July and will release exam results before schools reopen, Basic Education Department Director-General U Ko Lay Win told The Irrawaddy.

In Myanmar, the academic year usually starts in June and ends in March, with schools closing for summer holidays from March to June, and exam results are normally released in mid-April. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the government decided to postpone the start of the school year until July.

All basic education schools from the primary to secondary level will open in July but they will open in phases, rather than simultaneously, U Ko Lay Win said.

“Schools will reopen in the third week of July at the latest. The Education Ministry is doing its best to ensure a safe environment for the children,” said U Ko Lay Win.

The ministry will provide free face shields and masks for students and teachers and will provide digital thermometers to schools for temperature screenings. It will also arrange washbasins in schools, apply safe distancing measures in classrooms and take other preventative measures such as creating separate morning and evening sessions for schools with large numbers of students.

“All the schools will be reopened, but there might be an interval of one week between primary and lower and upper secondary levels,” he said.

The Education Ministry is currently designing a list of dos and don’ts for students and parents to prevent COVID-19, he said.

School teachers have said that it will be easier to make lower and upper secondary students obey the COVID-19 instructions, but it will be difficult for primary students ranging from kindergarten to 4th graders to follow the instructions.

“It is impossible to keep kindergarten students apart in a classroom. They are playful and it will be more difficult to control them if they are kept apart,” said a primary school teacher from Bago Region who asked for anonymity. “They only care to play and don’t know about infection. It is impossible to keep the students from kindergarten through first grade levels apart.”

“Some kindergarten students will cry for around a week when they are sent to school for the first time, and you need to soothe some children in your arms for a week,” she added.

There are also other problems like a possible shortage of teachers, because more teachers will be needed for separated classrooms, she said.

U Ye Thwin Hein, a father and husband of a teacher in Pyay, said he would go to see the classrooms and send his children to school only when they think the schools are safe, as three COVID-19 patients have been found in Pyay.

“I have discussed with my family about not sending my children to school this year. I will consider it, depending on the situation. As my wife is a teacher, I am worried for her as well as my children,” he said.

Out of Myanmar’s 330 townships, COVID-19 cases have been reported in only 47 townships, according to U Ko Lay Win. He added that the ministry will prioritize schools in those townships for COVID-19 prevention measures and also test teachers in those townships for the coronavirus.

Currently, more than 6,000 schools across the country are being used as quarantine centers. They will be disinfected in line with instructions from the Ministry of Health and Sports and will be returned to the Education Ministry by June 15.

There are around 10 million basic education students and 450,000 teachers across Myanmar, according to the Education Ministry.

As of Friday morning, Myanmar has reported 181 COVID-19 cases with six deaths and 84 recoveries.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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