The announcement on resuming in-person classes in schools and kindergartens from Sunday, and conducting rapid antigen tests at home on children on a weekly basis, has triggered a debate online with some welcoming it and others expressing concern.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) had on Wednesday announced the return of students to schools and kindergartens with 100% in-person attendance from January 30, while adhering to all Covid-19 precautionary and preventive measures.
A rapid antigen test has to be conducted on a weekly basis at home for all students of public and private schools and kindergartens, across all grades. A negative result will enable them to enter the school building, provided the test takes place within a maximum of 48 hours before returning to school.
“Great decision. Online schooling doesn’t do justice to kids,” said one Twitter user, welcoming the decision to resume in-person classes, while another netizen hailed it as a “great initiative”.
“Brilliant news. Children have been the ones bearing the brunt of the restrictions in Qatar over the past year. Education should be the last thing to be closed,” said another person on Facebook. “Excellent news, we need to learn to live with Covid,” added another.
“Fully support and very happy with the wise decision to return back to in-person classes,” said a resident.
However, there were others who expressed concern, saying it is too early to resume 100% attendance in schools.
A resident said on Facebook, “Too early for 100% capacity. Why take (a) chance with kids’ health?”
One user said the authorities could have done a survey involving parents before taking the decision, while another felt the ministry should give parents/students the option of continuing with online classes.
Some others suggested the blended learning system could be followed instead of 100% attendance.
“This time, the infection is more among children. This is what happened to us in Algeria, despite the adult vaccination. Now, Omicron has spread rapidly, less than a week, and that is why most families were infected with it,” tweeted a netizen. “Still it’s very risky for children, especially now too much children are infected,” said another person on Facebook.
People also expressed concern over the decision to do a RAT on students every week before they are allowed entry into a school.
According to the decision, government schools will distribute the kits to parents while those with children in private schools will have to purchase them.
“Weekly tests at home? The tests are going to be done on kids aged from 3 years old on a weekly basis and think of the pain and fear they’re gonna go through?” commented one Facebook user.
“At least they would have made 50% attendance for few weeks and not ask for doing weekly test,” said another.
“Why provide antigen kits to only public schools and not private? What about chronic kids who are not even vaccinated? There should be options given to parents,” argued a resident.
Many said the cost of buying RAT kits every week is an additional burden, urging the authorities to reconsider. “Families that have more than one child in private schools have to do an examination every week at their expense,” said a netizen.
Others also doubted how would the schools verify the results of the tests. Every child has to submit a declaration form at school, filled and signed by a parent, noting that the result is negative and the student be allowed to attend class.
Some also felt that older kids, who are vaccinated, should be exempted from the testing along with those who have recovered from Covid-19 recently. Others said physical classes should be held for vaccinated children while kids in the 5-11 age group should be allowed to do online classes until they are vaccinated.
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