Malaysia to penalize unvaccinated teachers as schools reopen

Monitoring Desk

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian teachers who refuse coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations will face disciplinary action and possibly the sack, the government announced on Thursday. After nearly half a year of online learning, students will start returning to the country’s educational institutions from Oct. 3, with classroom capacities limited to 50 percent.

However, according to Education Ministry data, at least 2,000 tutors had still not received jabs despite it being a requirement of them for getting back to work in person.

Thursday’s announcement by the Public Service Department of the reopening plan came as Education Minister Radzi Jidin warned unvaccinated educators that the government would seek sanctions against them, including termination of their contracts of employment. The PSD has set a deadline of Nov. 1 for all civil servants, including teachers, to get their jabs.

“If public officers have not yet taken the vaccine after the prescribed period without any exemption from government medical officers, then the officers may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with current regulations in force,” the department said in a statement.

Sri, a 48-year-old secondary school teacher in the state of Selangor, told Arab News: “It’s a good move actually. Teachers are supposed to set an example to others. Definitely more will have to opt to be vaccinated.”

Kuala Lumpur-based teacher, Maria, said there were widespread fears among her colleagues about COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

“Maybe it is fear for some of them who are not vaccinated. Some also use all kinds of religious excuses. But this is very worrying as there is a higher risk for all of us,” she added.

Parents and experts are pinning their hopes on those teachers who still refuse vaccination to either quit themselves or that they be asked to leave, especially those who teach kids under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for jabs.

Dr. Lee Boon Chye, former Malaysian deputy health minister, told Arab News: “Once the children are vaccinated, the risk to the children is minimized, but also note that so far there has been no announcement on whether to vaccinate primary school students who are less than 12 years old. Unvaccinated teachers pose a risk to themselves and also to others.”

International Medical University pro-vice chancellor, Prof. Dr. Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, said unvaccinated teachers should be transferred in the “context of risk management,” but after the PSD announcement for public servants he expected that most would obey the requirements.

“A large majority of teachers are in public schools,” he added.

Dr. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the ministry had the right to act against those who posed a possible health risk to others.

“If they are not vaccinated, the likelihood of them infecting others, especially students, is higher. It is your right to not get vaccinated, it is also the right of the ministry to transfer you out,” he added.

The Malaysian Parent Action Group for Education president, Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, said that while she hoped unvaccinated teachers would change their minds, if they did not, they should not be allowed to hinder the teaching process.

“As the reopening of schools is in stages the need for all teachers to be physically in school is not immediate, there is still time for teachers to change their minds or be changed. Unvaccinated teachers should offer to resign, or take optional retirement,” she added.