The New Zealand Herald reports that 4 Filipino children attending the Papakura Normal School were not allowed to go to class. The decision to bar these students was made amidst the growing panic surrounding the coronavirus epidemic.
The families of these Filipino children, aged 7 to 12, were told to “self-isolate” for 14 days after they returned from a vacation in the Philippines. The students in question are NZ citizens Kristel and Mary Dumalaon and NZ permanent residents Joyce and Jasmine Botor.
Beth Botor, the mother of Joyce and Jasmine, tells the NZ Herald that her daughters were personally sent home by Papakura Normal’s deputy principal Alison Copeland.
“She said, ‘I’m a deputy principal from the school and I took your kids from their rooms because of the need to isolate them,'” Botor began her story. “I said, ‘Isolate from what?'”
Copeland then gave her a notice from the Philippines Airline website concerning New Zealand’s travel ban set against Mainland China. Botor protested that they had not even passed China, having opted to take a Qantas flight via Singapore and Melbourne.
Still, Botor was told to isolate her children and was forced to take a leave from her job to watch over her daughters. Her husband, Ronnel Botor, was told to isolate himself at home by his boss as well.
Mary Jane Dumalaon, the mother of Kristel and Mary, says that she was called to pick up her children after sending them to school last February 5. She similarly had to take a leave from work to look after her daughters.
Speaking to CNN Philippines, Dumalaon talked about her exchange with the school’s principal.
“They saw an email from Philippine Airlines that all passengers going to and from the Philippines need to have 14 days in isolation. I was like shocked with it because I knew from the start in the Philippine airport itself it says mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau,” she explained.
“We said we didn’t travel to China. Check [the passport] pages to make sure. I explained to the school how come we passed all the borders and we’re fine then the kids had been sent home,” Dumalaon continued.
She shared that her daughters were unsettled by what happened. “They got shocked also! They were like, ‘What’s going on?’ So I explained to them and I said, ‘I think they just overreacted,” she said. “You know the panic about the coronavirus that we might have because we traveled from the Philippines.”
A piece of advice she gave them regarding the situation was: “If you know that it’s right, you stand for it. No one should bully, discriminate us because we’re here doing our thing.”
Thankfully, Dumalaon clarifies that her children were not discriminated upon going back to school.
The Auckland Regional Public Health office weighed in on the situation to give clear directives.
“We have now qualified that there is not a requirement for any of the family to self-isolate and the family will be returning both to school and their respective places of work for their next scheduled shifts,” they stated.
Papakura Normal principal Derek Linington then apologized to the two families and welcomed the children back to school.
“While we initially asked a family to self-isolate, based on our discussions with the Ministry of Education and on Ministry of Health advice we have advised the family that they are now able to return to school immediately,” he said.
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