From our previous article, we highlighted the struggles of online learning that many B40 students are facing.
Malaysia has always been committed to increasing accessibility to education for B40 students through programs like the Zero Dropout Program that provides financial assistance and residential schools as encouragement for students to return to school. We also implemented the Zero Reject Policy, which targets our undocumented and special needs students. These initiatives were a witness to the small steps taken in improving the education sector in Malaysia.
The year 2020 however shocked the world with a global pandemic causing the entire education system to go through a drastic change – switching to fully online. Taking on this new approach to distance learning, students and teachers have to quickly adapt to a new virtual class environment and accustom themselves to digital-centric means of communication.
Things do not get easier for the transition either. The Star has reported a price hike for certain gadgets, laptops and printer models, new or used since the start of 2020. This was due to the increasing demands for electronic devices and higher shipping costs. Making it difficult for some to purchase gadgets for online learning needs.
Students – who rely on their university’s Internet facilities – are now facing difficulties to join virtual classes especially for those without access to stable internet connection in the vicinity and in large households with limited bandwidth as video conferences and streaming takes up a huge chunk out of the internet quota. Most importantly, we will be entering another academic year of online distance learning with no proper support and guideline from the government to ameliorate the situation.There has been no improvement in putting out a well-thought course of action for students, teachers and parents to follow.
Fortunately, we have seen many initiatives done by higher education institutions, private sectors and influential personalities like Ebit Lew and YB Syed Saddiq in providing electronic devices, financial assistance, fee deductions and free mobile data plans for students who require assistance. While the burden of responsibility supposedly belonged to our government, crowdfunding initiatives could help students in need to navigate through this hard time.
In the upcoming #PUTRAROAST; PUTRA’s Podcast series – we have invited Siti Rahayu Baharin, the director of Buku Jalanan Chow Kit, to discuss community mobilisation, the education system, steps we can take, NGO initiatives to help students and more. Rahayu, a prominent education activist has engaged in a lot of initiatives and discourse over the deepening rabbit hole of online learning during this pandemic. Do tune in…#NEXTWEEK!
Iman Qistina Izzuddin Shah
PUTRA Centre For Social Studies