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A pedestrian wearing a raincoat and face mask is seen on a street, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. - REUTERS
A pedestrian wearing a raincoat and face mask is seen on a street, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus. - REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR: Parents have expressed concern over an expected intake of students from China at an international school here amid fears of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

It was learnt that British International School, Kuala Lumpur (BSKL) would temporarily welcome a number of Nord Anglia Education (NAE) students who were unable to return to their schools in China, currently closed due to the outbreak.

BSKL is one of NAE’s international schools.

NAE has a total of 66 international schools, based in 29 countries, with more than 64,000 students between two and 18 years old.

In China, NAE international schools are located in Beijing, Chengdu, Foshan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Nantong, Ningbo, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Jiaxing.

BSKL principal, Janet Brock, in an email to parents last week highlighted that all the necessary precautionary measures had been taken.

“Of course, health and safety remain our first priority. As we help these families, we are taking additional measures above and beyond the guidance set out by the Ministry of Education.

The email stated that the new students come to the school with the highest recommendations of their current school Principals.

Furthermore, before the school welcome those children into school, they will have provided a doctor’s note stating that everyone in their household has been in Malaysia for longer than the 14-day quarantine period and no one is exhibiting any symptoms of the virus, and copies of their visa exit stamps and/or entry stamps.

“Please note that none of these families travelled from Wuhan or Hubei province. All of our current health and safety measures, including daily temperature checks, vigilance in hand-washing, deep cleaning procedures on campus, and more, remain in effect.

“Much like our own families, NAE schools are stronger together than we are individually, and we now have an opportunity to demonstrate to our fellow NAE families the global reach of our organisation.

“We appreciate your kindness and understanding as we welcome these families into the community,” the email read.

Despite this, parents saw the move as a potential risk for their children.

“Majority of the parents are anxious. We are even planning to meet the management but was told that the decision had been made.

“I understand the school has taken precautionary measures. But we are just worried about our children’s safety if this is the right time for the school to accept students from schools in China that has temporarily closed down because of this outbreak.

“Why put our children at risk?” a parent told the New Straits Times.

Another parent said the school should have discussed the matter with parents before making the decision.

“This is an unacceptable way of informing parents. They should have consulted us and given us more information such as where exactly the students are coming from, how many of them and for how long will they be here,” she said.

These NAE students should be provided access to e-learning materials instead of admitting them at BSKL, said another parent.

“Our opinions or rights were not taken into consideration. The school didn’t even discuss with the teachers beforehand or at least inform the class teacher first. This is all so sudden,” said another parent.

“It's a risky move to welcome them to the school. I do feel sorry for their condition. But on the other hand, I’m very concerned about my kids' safety too. Can’t they do home schooling? Maybe NAE can provide them with online class materials so they can still study,” she said.

The Health Ministry, however, assured parents that there was no need for panic or fear as the school has taken the necessary precautionary measures.

“According to the notice, the school has ensured that the students are not from Hubei or Wuhan. The students and their family members have been here for more than two weeks.

“What the school has done exceeded the requirements to prevent infection. The fear is unwarranted,” Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye said.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching, who was unaware of the issue, said all education institutions should heed the advice of the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Nor Azimah Abdul Rahim said parents with children having pre-existing conditions may want to take extra precautions.

“Otherwise children who are strong and healthy should not be unduly worried,” she said.

A BSKL spokesman responding to this article said: “As your news story reports, the Health Ministry notes that we have exceeded the requirement to prevent infection and it is very important to also note that the children have been in Malaysia longer than the 14-day quarantine period.

“As a global family of schools, we thinik it is right that we are supporting our students by taking careful and considered steps, that exceed current guidance, and we know our students and their families appreciate the kind support they have received from our school community.”

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