PETALING JAYA: The hybrid teaching and learning (TnL) system announced for primary and secondary school students has highlighted a longstanding problem – the disparity between middle- and low-income students.
“We realised that for a lot of students, there’s a clear gap between the rich and poor. The poor suffer from a lack of access to online learning,” says youth NGO Arus Anak Muda.
With this in mind, Arus Anak Muda, together with Hunger Hurts Malaysia and Consurv Technic, has started a fundraiser called Connect Rakyat since Nov 24 last year to raise funds for laptops and tablet devices for children in need.
Connect Rakyat aims to distribute 100 laptops to students living in pockets of urban poverty around Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, specifically narrowing down on children in urban poor communities in Lembah Pantai and Kampung Tunku.
“We don’t want the gap between the rich and poor to widen further,” Arus Muda marketing director Arif Roslan said.
He said the group, consisting of nine young adults between 18 and 35, has raised RM53,500.
Before their fundraising, he said, they carried out a survey, asking students of SMK Sultan Abdul Samad in Kuala Lumpur on their personal experiences with online learning.
Many students reported one of three main issues: not having devices on their own, needing to share them with other family members, or having parents who needed to take the devices with them when they went to work.
Students also reported having slow or no internet connectivity.
From their survey, Arif said, they also identified the kinds of devices required for different students.
He said primary and secondary school students needed, at the very least, a Google chromebook, costing on average RM500.
“It depends on the tier of education. For upper secondary school students, we would need to give them laptops with specifications advanced enough for them to download certain software.
“This is so they can also prepare to enter university. They may need to use more complicated software. They need Zoom and other applications. They need to be able to document whatever they study, and make submissions (for their assignments).”
Hence, students may need at least RM1,000 for devices and connectivity that fulfilled this criteria.
“I don’t think the government is doing enough as a lot of students are still complaining,” Arif said.
“As youth groups, we need to raise awareness and give children a platform to speak up.”
He said urban youths in particular should try to understand the different realities faced by teenagers and young adults who were less fortunate, and try to speak up on their behalf.
“Some of the lower-income children don’t have social media. They often can’t speak up. Youth organisations must be the voice for them. We also need to have credible avenues for people to help.”
He suggested that youth groups wishing to help should collaborate with established NGOs to raise donations.
“I think social media is an important tool to spread awareness. It’s the centre of everything that we do nowadays.”
Norsyuhada Mostar, project executive for Consurv Technic, noted that 36% of students nationwide do not possess any electronic devices.