The following letter is contributed by Sunat and Samuel Lim
I listened to Mrs Christy Loh’s criticisms of the Singaporean Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic with great interest. She focused on COVID-19 policies affecting primary and secondary school children. While I understand that she was fueled by her concern for the well-being of her children, I simply have to address the weaknesses in her arguments.
Mrs Loh does not consider how home-based learning increases inequality because families of a lower socioeconomic background are more likely to lack a conducive home environment, parental teaching skills, internet connectivity and access to tuition centres. This renders such children less academically competitive. Mrs Loh may have the above resources to support her children’s e-learning, but other parents are not as fortunate. Lower socioeconomic families must also work harder to maintain their jobs during this recession, further cutting the time they have to care for their children. Same goes for the healthcare workers who sacrifice time with their own family to save other families. In short, Mrs Loh does not understand Singapore’s socio economic context. She appears out of touch with the ground. We should all avoid excessive focus on the risk of infection and remember the wider socio-economic ramifications of policies.
Mrs Loh also alleges that Education Minister Ong only closed schools because there was an infection at ‘Maris Stella Primary School’ which threatened his own daughter. This is totally false. The infection occurred at Maris Stella High, an all-boys school. I doubt Mrs Loh understands how serious this is. She is spreading fake news. Someone should POFMA to uphold journalistic credibility.
Furthermore, Mrs Loh criticises the government for not disseminating the exact details of the few children currently infected. However, this is unreasonable because the government cannot violate the children’s privacy. They already provide as much information as possible through the GOV.SG WhatsApp group. For example, on 7th June they announced that the five recent school infections are unrelated to any cluster and occurred during the circuit breaker. I would go as far as to say that Mrs Loh is being dangerously nosy here. Exposing children to the public gaze has its own dangers. This is why the law protects minors and ensures that their names are not revealed in legal documents. Mrs Loh should just let the children recover and return to school in peace.
Last but not least, Mrs Loh argues that the government should not reopen schools from June 2nd onwards as this may expose children to the COVID-19 infection. Fortunately, experts support the government’s decision. For instance, Professor Dale Fisher from the World Health Organisation states that parents (not children) tend to contract the virus through their interactions outside, later spreading it to their child at home. Keeping children at school may actually be safer than at home. Furthermore, child patients tend to suffer less adverse effects from the virus than adults. This shows that the government reopening schools is the safer option.
I wonder why Mrs Loh seems to only argue for an extended circuit-breaker for children, when the adults are more likely to endanger children. She may by aware of the economic consequences of an ‘adult circuit-breaker’ and finds it infeasible. But the reality is that children returning to school will not endanger them as much as she fears. It is adults who should take care of their own hygiene, if they want to protect the children.