Heed plight of differently abled students, says Suhakam commissioner

Differently abled students need trained teachers who are not available because of Covid-19, a Suhakam commissioner says. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: A Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner has urged the education ministry to consider the plight of differently abled students, who are among those left behind because of the Covid-19 crisis and the ensuing movement control order.

Lok Yim Pheng said this group may not have the facilities to attend online classes at home while some parents may not be able to afford such tools which were quite costly.

“It will burden parents and, based on what I have read online, it is quite taxing for them to deal with their children who need trained teachers,” she said in a talk show titled “Covid-19: Where have all the students gone?”

Lok, the former secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP), said because this group of students are unable to attend classes, the gap between them and the others will widen.

“They will lose out. We really hope the education ministry will look into this group of children. They shouldn’t be left out,” she said.

Lok also said the Covid-19 crisis has widened the equity gap and affected students in the rural areas and the urban poor.

She said that during the MCO, children do not think of education, but of survival, namely “food, shelter and money”, while their parents may have lost their jobs.

Lok Yim Pheng

They would also not be able to afford a smartphone to take part in e-learning, she said.

Lok said the crisis also impacted the quality of education with students missing lessons and socialising with their friends, which could affect them emotionally and psychologically.

She also said the two-hour contact students have with teachers is insufficient. “You have so many subjects. How can you cover everything in two hours?”

She said a survey by the education ministry, which found that 36.9% of 900,000 had no access to electronic devices for e-learning purposes, was a cause for concern.

This meant that parents would have to take over the role of teachers, some of whom may not have the skills to guide them, unlike trained teachers.

But for those with the facilities to take part in e-learning, it could not replace teachers, she said.

However, Lok said there was a silver lining in the Covid-19 crisis.

She said parents would have a better appreciation for teachers.

“They will understand how a teacher has to handle not one student but up to 50 students in a classroom,” she said, adding that based on feedback, there was some amount of pressure when educating one’s child everyday at home.

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