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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Give Jasa's allocation to Veveonah to solve internet woes in Sabah

 


MP SPEAKS | In June, an 18-year old lass from Kampung Sapatalang, Pitas, Veveonah Mosibin, had to spend 24 hours on a treetop to get better internet connectivity to sit for an online examination.

On Monday night, a rickety suspension bridge in Kampung Gusi, Ranau, collapsed after eight students crowded on it. The bridge was one of the few spots in the kampong with better internet access. A 16-year-old girl broke her bones in her thigh and shin, and a boy suffered spinal injuries, while the rest reported light injuries.

When will such incidents end, especially in the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, where the cumulative total of Covid-19 infections in Sabah had catapulted from 426 cases and eight fatalities on Sept 1 to the present 28,155 cases and 206 fatalities, and resulting in schools being closed and classes to go online?

It is a tragedy that the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Communication and Multimedia and the Sabah state government do not take the collapse of the Kampung Gusi suspension bridge as the latest indictment of their abysmal failure to close the digital divide in the interior of Sabah.

I had suggested that the Federal and Sabah state governments should set up a task force headed by Veveonah Mosibin to immediately conduct a survey in Sabah to ensure that having a spend 24 hours on a treetop or causing the collapse of suspension bridges in the Sabah interior to get better internet access for their education would be a thing of the past.

Malaysia will make world news if the RM81.5 million earmarked for revival of the propaganda unit known as the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) in the Budget 2021 is switched to fund the federal-state government task force headed by Veveonah to resolve the kinks in Sabah interior's internet access to facilitate online education during the current Covid-19 epidemic.

The appointment of Veveonah to head the task force will be a triple testimony that Malaysia values the contribution of youths, women and minorities to resolve the problems faced by the young generation of students over online education.

The Finance Minister, Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz had announced during his winding-up speech of the second reading of Budget 2021 debate in Parliament that the provision of RM81.5 million for the revival of JASA will be slashed. It is understood that the allocation would be reduced by about RM40 million.

This is clearly unacceptable. The whole sum of RM81.5 million should be directed for the use of resolving the kinks in internet access in Sabah interior, especially during this Covid-19 epidemic when online education is replacing physical school education.

Are the federal and state governments ready for such an innovative and courageous approach to national problems?

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the nation, Malaysian parents have come to accept the fact that digital education has now become an integral part of the new norm.

DAP MP for Kulai and former deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching told Parliament during the budget debate that 37 percent of, or 1.7 million, students under the Education Ministry did not have the devices to enable them to participate in online teaching and learning sessions. They did not possess a laptop, tablet or computer, which they would need to follow an online class.

This means that about 1.7 million primary and secondary school students fall into the "digital poverty" category.

During the budget debate, former education minister and Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik said the government should allocate more airtime for educational television programmes with classes disrupted because of Covid-19.

He said educational TV programmes in Malaysia were broadcast on the mainstream channels for only two hours a day.

This is insufficient when compared to our neighbouring countries; six hours a day on their mainstream channels in Indonesia and in Thailand, they have 15 channels for education.

These are problems which warrant immediate attention by the government instead of talking about reviving the propaganda unit Jasa or the National Service programme as announced by the Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob in Parliament on Tuesday.


LIM KIT SIANG is the DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri. - Mkini

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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