Press Statement by Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching, Dr Kelvin Yii on 10 November 2020:
This morning I stood up to ask a MQT question (urgent matter) to the Education Minister to question the thinking behind their sudden and “last-minute” decision to close ALL schools nationwide, even those in the Green areas, affecting not just students, but also teachers and parents.
In Sarawak, Since the start of the (Covid-19) pandemic in March, large areas still remain green zones, and these mainly are the rural areas where they lack the facilities and guidance for students to follow the needed program. This is the same in places like Pahang, Kelantan and even Perlis who technically is not affected by the CMCO.
Sadly, based on the written answer that was given to me, it seems that the Education Ministry do not have a comprehensive plan or policy to address the “education gap” among the rich & poor and urban & rural that will definitely widen due to the closing of schools and the lack of internet and proper equipments for the poor and those in the rural areas.
The answer basically says that the reason for it is due to CMCO and concern of the numbers of Covid-19 that seems to be increasing. However, the Ministry cannot be reactive to daily numbers, as the virus will be in the community for a long period of time even until next year. They cannot just close ALL schools everytime there is a spike of cases in certain areas.
The victims are not only the students, but also teachers who are working so hard to be creative and make sure all students are not left behind with the home-based learning direction, and not forgetting parents, that are burdened by this last minute decisions, especially those that are working.
Based on answer given the only plan the Ministry has for those without proper internet and equipments is TV Pendidikan through TV Okey and Tutor TV Astro.
In reality not only, many may not have a TV but such programmes are only 2 hours a day with limited subjects, and is insufficient as a holistic education experience for the students.
The Ministry also say that they will be looking at delivering “education package” to the students especially those living in the rural areas through post, PIBGs or drive-thru in schools.
However, little was mentioned in how to address the lack of proper facilities, gadgets and even infrastructures.
A report has mentioned that up to 40% of students in whole Malaysia who do not have the proper equipments to do online learning. This statistics is definitely higher in states like Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan and even Pahang.
At the end of the day, even with such packages without proper guidance, the students will still be left behind. And poor, B40 students who often rely on the food given in their Asrama, now have no choice but to go back to their kampungs or homes since ALL Asramas are also closed, increasing financial burden to the family.
While I am ALL FOR PREVENTING the spread of the virus and PROTECTING our children, but such “reactive” blanket or one-size-fits-all decision have many unintended consequences and speaks volume of the Ministry’s unpreparedness of having a proper policy to help the school’s adjust to the “new normal” with proper precautions in place.
Ask every teacher and they will share with you their struggles with this home-based learning and getting every student involved.
At the end, my concern is how it will widen the education gap between the rich & the poor, urban & the rural and when those left behind cannot cope or catch up, they will lose interest and quit school.
Then the poor will continue be caught in and cannot break out of that cycle of poverty, and it is a huge loss for our nation.
This was proven by a a UN study that shows that poor communities in the Klang Valley returning to the classrooms is dropping at an alarming rate as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak disruption of schools.
So ALL Ministries by now should be proactive in their policies and help adapt the people to the current new norm, and not just be reactive and this blanket policies have no consequences at times like this.
Each Education Ministry in each districts should be empowered to be part of such decisions as they will understand the local context and local needs of each areas so that students or teachers are not affected but blanket policies that may not be thoroughly thought through.
I am deeply concerned on the “cost” and affects of this decision on the education and long-term future of our children.
No child should be left behind, but with this, many will be left behind.
Education is the core of our nation, and the government should be more proactive and prepared to make sure our children are not left behind regardless of the situation.
Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen,
Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.