Parents cheer move to allow quarantined candidates for PSLE, but COVID-positive students still in limbo
The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on Sunday that students who are under quarantine will be allowed to sit for the national year-end examinations if they test negative for COVID-19. But others who have tested positive are still unsure if they can sit for their papers.
SINGAPORE: When news broke on Sunday (Sep 26) that students who are under quarantine will be allowed to sit for their national year-end examinations if they test negative for COVID-19, some parents heaved a sigh of relief.
The recent surge of COVID-19 cases has led to growing fears from parents that if their children were exposed to the virus, they may not be able to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), with written papers beginning on Thursday.
Ms Joan Tabinas, whose son was issued a quarantine order on Saturday, told CNA that her family welcomed the news.
"It's very good news and we're really excited and happy about it," said the 42-year-old.
"Just two days ago, we were really cranky after hearing that my son would not be allowed to sit for the exams because he is under quarantine," she said. "My son has been preparing for this examination for almost a year and he was looking at this as an opportunity to get into his goal school.
"So it's a good thing that a lot of parents (whose children were also under quarantine) decided to voice their concerns, and so we all collaborated and expressed our opinions and comments regarding this issue to MOE," she added.
It was a similar case for Ms Jazz Yeep, 52, whose son was also served a quarantine order on Saturday.
"My son, he actually jumped with joy when the news came out. He had been so devastated when he thought he couldn't sit for the exams," she said.
Despite this, she said, the family is still holding their breath until they know for sure that he can take the PSLE.
"The information on arrangements is coming in, but it's coming in slowly, so it's hard not to feel some anxiety ... till now, we haven't received an official letter on what to do, and many parents are still waiting for their children's PCR test results to see if they can apply for leave from their quarantine.
"The instructions on how to apply for the leave is also not out, neither is the information on how to apply to the school to confirm that my child will be sitting for the exams."
According to the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board, about 1.4 per cent of the 39,300 PSLE students were unable to take their listening comprehension exams due to COVID-19-related reasons.
SOME COVID-POSITIVE STUDENTS STILL IN LIMBO
Some students who have tested positive for the virus are also not sure if they can take the exam, although they have completed their quarantine period.
Mr Cheng Yew Liang, whose 12-year-old son tested positive for COVID-19 on Sep 17 at a Swab and Send Home clinic, said he had been making “calls after calls” to officers from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Certis Cisco over the past week, as his son has not been issued a quarantine order or an isolation order.
They were also not given instructions on whether their son could stay at home to recover or go to the hospital, despite being told by MOH that someone would come to their house to assess the situation.
“MOH keeps saying that they will escalate our case but till now, I don’t know whether (my son) should be going to school to take his PSLE,” the 53-year-old told CNA.
To make matters worse, Mr Cheng himself has tested positive for the virus.
“It’s very frustrating, because we have been stuck here for the past eight or nine days with no news, despite us calling and calling,” he said. “Everyone keeps bouncing us here and there, telling us that they will escalate our case but nothing happens.
“By right, we can go out since we have not received isolation order or quarantine order but of course, we have not done that because we are responsible people ... we are toeing the line and we are staying at home. But my biggest concern is what's next and is my son cleared to take the PSLE?"
"MOH has said that my son is free to go out and that no exit swab is required, but so far, everything has been verbal, there's been no SMS or any form of documentation," added his wife, who declined to be named.
"His TraceTogether still says he's COVID-positive and so without any official documents (saying that he's been discharged), how are we supposed to show the school that MOH has actually said this to us?"
Amid uncertainty over existing healthcare protocols, and unsure whether their children can return to schools to take the exam, some parents have become increasingly frustrated.
Another mother who wanted to be known as Madam Syurah said quarantine orders were issued initially to her husband, herself and their two daughters after her husband tested positive for COVID-19 on Sep 13.
Her 12-year-old son, who also tested positive for the virus, did not get a quarantine order.
“MOH said they had checked their system and that my son was not registered at the same address as me, so they didn’t issue my son a quarantine order,” said the 39-year-old.
“It was very frustrating because he is in our house and there was clearly something wrong with their system or wasn't updated, so (how could they) blame us for that?” she said. “But we pressured them because without the quarantine order, my son was supposed to take the PSLE listening comprehension because there was no proof.”
To add to the confusion, her son's isolation order ended on Friday, but his PCR test showed that he still had the virus.
"The PSLE is in three days, but he will no longer be under quarantine so he won't have an 'official' reason if he can't sit for the papers," said the 39-year-old.
"Even if he needs to do another PCR test, I don't know if the results will come back in time for the first paper."
CNA has contacted MOH for comments on what is being done to help students who tested positive for the virus but have completed their quarantine orders.
FEARS OVER CHILDREN BEING “AT A DISADVANTAGE”
While this year's special arrangements mean more students in quarantine will be allowed to take the exams, parents CNA interviewed expressed concerns over their children's mental well-being.
“All the disruptions have really drained (my son) enough and I really just need some assurance that he can go ahead and take his exams,” Mdm Syurah told CNA.
“I really feel like we are guinea pigs of all these new measures which happened just a few weeks before PSLE ... my son is so stressed and I can't assure him, so it's double the stress.”
Mr Cheng fears that his son will be at a disadvantage even if he is allowed to sit for the exams.
"When he got COVID-19, he experienced flu and fever so he had to rest and couldn't really revise, so his engine basically came to a halt," he said.
"We are getting him to resume his revisions in preparation for PSLE but, honestly, we are at a disadvantage, simply because we've lost so much time."
One parent whose son is under quarantine said he has decided not to sit for the written papers.
The 12-year-old has been quarantined since his classmate tested positive for COVID-19 last week. He has been staying at a government quarantine facility as their house is not suitable for home recovery, said his mother, who wanted to be known as Mdm Lim.
"We already accepted that he wouldn't be able to take the exams, made all the arrangements, and then the news came out," she said.
"The last five days have really been very stressful mentally, for my son as well as my family. So when we asked if he wanted to take the exams, he said he didn't want to, even though he had been disappointed when he first found out that he couldn't take the exams.
"I can understand because he had already made peace with it," she said.