SINGAPORE - Education Minister Lawrence Wong has called on teachers, principals and other staff in schools to get vaccinated, saying that it is the best way for them to protect themselves and their students against Covid-19.
He made the pitch at the Anglican High School's 65th anniversary celebration on Saturday (March 13), just three days after the national vaccination programme was extended to more than 150,000 people working in educational institutions.
The vaccination drive, which started with seniors, has been sped up after more vaccine supplies arrived in Singapore, and has also been extended to more high-risk groups and essential workers, including teachers.
On including teachers, the Ministry of Health said that the plan is to inoculate those who come into prolonged contact with children and young people as vaccines are not yet certified for those below the age of 16.
For a start, those working in pre-schools, national schools, the Institute of Technical Education and polytechnics will be able to sign up for their jabs.
Some 90 per cent of the teachers and staff at Anglican High School have made appointments so far, said principal Khoo Tse Horng, 54, who is awaiting his own appointment on March 19.
"Our staff are very happy to do it to protect ourselves, our family and also our students, since they are too young and cannot get vaccinated yet," he said.
The school's anniversary celebration was a scaled-down affair in the light of the pandemic, with a total of about 120 students, staff and alumni, as well as special guests, visiting its Upper Changi Road campus throughout Saturday to contribute to a montage made up of recycled reusable masks.
Over the past months, some 1,500 masks of all types were washed and then decorated by students, who penned their wishes for the school.
The masks were assembled into a tapestry that has been entered into the Singapore Book of Records as the largest montage made with face masks, in keeping with the school's tradition of breaking records at its major anniversary celebrations.
Head of department for character and citizenship education Yeow Yong Keng, 43, himself an alumnus of the school, said: "Having to wear a mask has been one of the biggest changes for all of us since Covid struck. The montage shows how we have all experienced this together and helped each other as one community."
Mr Wong said coming together to set a record during this period was "a reflection of the school spirit of teamwork and excellence and how you continue to thrive and excel, even during difficult times".
Around the world, more than 888 million schoolchildren continue to face disruptions to their education due to full and partial school closures, data from UNESCO showed.
Some 168 million children have missed school for almost an entire year due to lockdowns to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus.
This has sparked worries that a whole generation of children may end up with difficulties catching up in school, leading to long-term effects on their job prospect and potential.
Noting this, Mr Wong said: "It is thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of all the teachers and staff who have been able to keep teaching and learning going and keep our students safe during this period."
With Singapore's vaccination programme under way, there is light at the end of the tunnel, said the minister, who jointly chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
As at March 7, more than 596,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered.
"For us in Singapore, we had to make very difficult adjustments over the past year. We will continue to have to do so for a good part of this year," he said.
"Hopefully, we can get as many people in Singapore vaccinated as soon as possible, and we will be able to relax some of these measures over time."