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Asia Minute: Indonesia Slowly Re-Opening Schools

AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana
Teacher Inggit Andini, right, wearing face shield as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak, speaks as her students sit in a makeshift class at her residence in Tangerang, Indonesia, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.

Many students across the state are preparing to resume classwork next week. But the re-opening of schools remains a major point of controversy — not only in the United States, but also in one of Asia’s largest countries.

Students in Indonesia are going back to school slowly. It’s a phased approach, but this week it’s taken a turn that’s sparking some controversy.

Indonesia is a sweeping archipelago – more than 17,000 islands with people living on about a third of them.

Medical authorities have divided the country into four color-coded areas based on the extent of COVID-19. About a month ago, the government allowed schools to re-open in green zones — low risk. At the end of last week, restrictions were lifted on moderate-risk areas – or yellow zones.

And that’s where the pushback has started.

The Jakarta Post reports the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations is concerned that the risk of new infection clusters has increased. The group says it already has reports of nearly 200 teachers and students who have tested positive for the virus.

The Straits Times reports the chairman of the Indonesian Pediatric Society says more testing is needed, as well as a more complex assessment of local conditions — not just a mapping of positive cases. Government figures show a little more than 40% of students in the country live in low and moderate risk zones.

Indonesia’s Education and Culture Minister says the federal government is only providing general guidance, and any decision about opening schools is up to local officials and parents. 

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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