Reopening of schools a relief for B40 families

KUALA LUMPUR: Many families in the B40 group are relieved that schools are finally reopening because their children have not been reaping the benefits of online schooling due to poor Internet connection and lack of electronic devices.

The Education Ministry had announced that schools would reopen yesterday for preschoolers, Year One and Year Two pupils, while Year Three to Year Six pupils will return to school on March 8.

As for secondary schools, those located in Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu will reopen on April 4 and schools in Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya will reopen on April 5.

Amirah Haikal, 15, a Form Three student at a school in the Klang Valley, and her friends, who are all from the B40 group, were eager to return to school.

She said most of them were not able to join PdPR (online schooling) last year as they did not have smartphones, tablets or laptops.

“We’re relieved that school is reopening soon. My mother is a kuih seller who earns about RM60 a day while my father is sick. They can’t afford to buy a computer for me.

“We have a smartphone, but it is an old model and acts up when we use it for too long.

“Not only that, my mother can only afford an Internet data plan worth RM20 which I have to share with my three siblings.

“It’s barely sufficient to support our online classes and I am only able to download some schoolwork. I feel like I have missed out on a lot, ” she added.

It has been widely reported that since schools were shut down following the enforcement of movement restrictions last year to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, access to education has been hampered for students in the B40 group and those living in rural and interior parts of the country, mainly due to lack of Internet infrastructure, mobile devices and a conducive learning environment.

According to a study carried out by the ministry between March 28 and April 2 last year on the preparedness of students for virtual learning, it was found that 36.9% of students did not have any device that would enable them to follow online learning.

The study involved a total of 670,118 respondents comprising the parents of 893,331 students, 6% of whom had personal computers, 9.3% (laptops), 5.8% (tablets) and 46.5% (smartphones).

National Parent-Teacher Associations Consultative Council president Assoc Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hasan said the issue of the newly purchased mobile devices (to facilitate e-learning) going to waste would not arise because they could be used for weekend and holiday learning sessions.

He said schools, in collaboration with parent-teacher associations and alumni, should consider organising online tuition classes over the weekends or during school holidays to help students catch up on their studies. — Bernama