Universities to Reopen With Smaller Classes, Covid-19 Tests

2 min read
Covid-19 precautions outside Phnom Penh’s Build Bright University on April 2, 2021. (Michael Dickison/VOD)

Higher education institutions will be allowed to reopen after 18 months of disrupted learning, with the Education Ministry setting out guidelines such as mandatory vaccinations, Covid-19 testing and smaller classes to ensure social distancing.

The move comes weeks after public and private secondary schools were opened in many provinces across the country, with schools required to check the vaccination status and ensure social distancing of students.

The Education Ministry released the guidelines on Monday, requiring higher education institutions to apply if they want to restart in-person learning. The guidelines limit class sizes to 20 students, require proof of vaccination and allow for students to opt out of in-person teaching and continue online lessons. The university will be shut down if Covid-19 cases are detected among students. 

Students will have to be vaccinated to return to the classroom and will have to get tested before they resume classes.

The decision to reopen universities followed instructions from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who posted an audio message on his Facebook page on Saturday asking the Education Ministry to consider resuming universities.

Det Sokodom, rector at Paragon International University, welcomed the decision to reopen universities but said the university would have to carefully implement the health guidelines. 

“Now we are considering applying to reopen,” Sokodom said. “It will not be fully open and there will be a division of [student] schedules. If there is an infection, we must close.”

He added the university would test students and use other routine health requirements like wearing masks and the cleaning of hands with alcohol. 

Students VOD spoke to had mixed reactions to the announcement. Mai Reachsey, a third-year student at Western University in Phnom Penh, said that even though he was worried about Covid-19 transmission he preferred being in the classroom over online lessons.

“I want to study in the classroom because it is more helpful. I can ask the lecturer whatever I want. When I was in an online class, sometimes, I did not dare to ask the teacher,” Reachey said.

Te Sivpheng, a first-year law student at RULE, said he was worried about whether universities can make sure classrooms are socially distanced, adding that he was a little scared of Covid-19 tests. 

“For me, I would prefer to have online classes because I’m scared of going to college, gathering and testing for Covid,” he said. “Learning at home is much better as I can do more research and work.”

Correction: The names of Mai Reachsey and Te Sivpheng have been corrected.

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