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Amid Covid surge, HCMC parents fret over online, offline classes

By Manh Tung   March 15, 2022 | 06:00 am PT
Amid Covid surge, HCMC parents fret over online, offline classes
A man takes a boy to the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Primary School in HCMC's Binh Thanh District, February 14, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung
Even after her third-grade son recovered from Covid-19, Nhung still decided to let him study online until the end of the school year.

Nhung, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City's Thu Duc, on Monday requested her son's teacher to transfer him to an online class for students in quarantine.

"If he returns to school, I'm worried he might be re-infected as the school has recorded nearly a hundred Covid-19 cases and their close contacts. Classes are on and off constantly. Studying that way is too fickle, so I just let my son stay home to keep him safe," Nhung said.

Many parents like Nhung are having doubts over online-offline classroom models as worries mount over rising coronavirus cases at HCMC schools.

Nhung had voted against letting primary school students return to class in mid-February, and said she believed they should just study online until the end of the school year. The kids are already used to online classes, and while they cannot compare to in-person classes, they're enough, she explained.

"The disease spreads very quickly in schools. Primary school students are not vaccinated yet, so who isn't worried?" she asked.

Thinh, 38, who lives in Tan Phu District, said he had wanted his daughter to return to school and been already prepared that his fourth grader daughter could get infected at anytime, but the current coronavirus situation is wilder than anything he has imagined.

"I thought a school would only have around one or two Covid-19 cases at a time, but now it's dozens and hundreds of cases. In my daughter's class, groups after groups went into quarantine," he said.

Thinh said classes constantly going online and offline is not only detrimental to students, but also a burden for schools and teachers. Parents would also find it difficult to adjust their schedules, transport their kids between homes and schools and take care of them.

"If it's only online classes, we could hire someone to take care of our kids at home. But now we have to take our child to school in the morning, and if they are infected, the teacher would call us anytime to bring them back. Then we must stay home for a week to take care of them," he added.

'It's a choice'

After the Lunar New Year holiday, around 1.5 million students from primary to high school levels and kindergartners aged 3-6 have returned to school. Over 200,000 children aged under 3 have also returned to school starting March 1.

From Feb. 7 to March 3, HCMC has recorded over 44,000 Covid-19 cases in schools. Around 3,600 of them were school staff and teachers, while the rest were students. Cases are still rising even now, with an additional 200 new cases recorded daily, according to the municipal Department of Education and Training.

Since February, the number of children infected with the coronavirus has doubled, even tripled every week, the HCMC Department of Health said. Primary school students are getting infected more compared to other grades, it added.

Many parents in the southern city have proposed for children aged 5-12 to stay home and study online until they are vaccinated. They argued that since schools always have around 2-3 months off during summer vacations and younger students don't have to worry about graduation exams, there would be no pressure to speed up their curriculum.

HCMC has around 963,000 children aged 5-12. Schools are currently seeking opinions from parents regarding Covid-19 vaccination for those aged 5-12.

The HCMC education department meanwhile said in-person classes would continue as they are, along with stringent coronavirus control measures.

Ho Tan Minh, office head of the education department, said schools are still conducting both online and offline classes. Online classes would be for both students in quarantine and those who simply want to stay home.

"Returning to school is a choice. If parents are worried, education facilities would still allow children to study online," he said.

 
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