Opposition MPs tell education minister, deputies to go over Covid-19 in schools, undelivered 150,000 laptops for students

Sekolah Kebangsaan Seksyen 16 students have their temperature checked on their first day back at school in Shah Alam March 1, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Sekolah Kebangsaan Seksyen 16 students have their temperature checked on their first day back at school in Shah Alam March 1, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 ― Education Minister Datuk Radzi Jidin and his two deputy ministers should resign over the lack of clear directives to schools on how to operate within the Covid-19 pandemic, Opposition MPs from seven political parties said today.

In a joint statement, the education committee of Pakatan Harapan and other Opposition parties also pointed out that the government’s promise of 150,000 laptops for students has yet to be fulfilled.

The statement was signed by eight MPs including the committee’s chairman Maszlee Malik, who is both Simpang Renggam MP and formerly an education minister.

The Opposition MPs noted the anxiety and worries faced by teachers, parents and guardians, students and the public over the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases linked to clusters involving schools.

“We also note that the efforts to reopen schools in stages this year was done hastily not long after home-based teaching and learning (PDPR) was announced, without clear explanation to the public about the plans and mechanisms for learning under the new norm involving schools if there are cases at school when schools are reopened,” the MPs said.

While recognising the joint efforts of school management and teachers nationwide in ensuring standard operating procedures are complied with and ensuring that education continues on for the sake of the school children’s future, the Opposition MPs noted the lack of guidance from the Education Ministry (MoE) towards the schools’ operations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What is happening now, many of those managing the schools have lost direction when there is an increase of cases at school but they are not equipped for home-based teaching and learning when schools are closed. Further, the giving of 150,000 laptops as promised by the government is still yet to be seen,” the MPs said.

In the government’s Budget 2021 speech on November 6, 2020, Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced that government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies would be contributing RM150 million into the Tabung Cerdik to provide laptops to 150,000 students in 500 schools as a pilot project for the purposes of online learning, and with the project to be supervised by Yayasan Hasanah.

Online learning is generally used for school lessons when physical classes are not available, but some students have reported difficulties in continuing with online lessons at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic due to the lack of resources such as laptops or mobile devices.

The schooling session for 2021 began on January 20 nationwide, with physical lessons in schools only resuming on March 1 for pre-schoolers and Year One and Year Two students in primary schools and on March 8 for Year Three to Year Six students in primary schools, while secondary schools resumed physical classes in schools in early April.

The Opposition MPs criticised the Education Ministry over the lack of plans for the nation’s education during the pandemic, saying that its minister and two deputy ministers must step down.

Since schools were reopened, dozens of Covid-19 infection clusters have been linked to education centres, ranging from primary schools to tertiary institutions.

“The public are generally unclear about the direction and detailed action plan by the ministry on education during the pandemic as there is no transparency of information from the MoE to the public.

“What is certain, the public’s anger especially by teachers, school administrators and parents towards the government and MoE as represented by the minister and his two deputy ministers are linked to the weakness of their handling of the current situation and can be seen whether among the grassroots or in social media.

“On this awareness, we represent all MPs from Pakatan Harapan and other Opposition parties in urging for the education minister and his two deputies that are seen as failing in carrying out their duties as hoped for by the public to immediately step down for the future of the public and our beloved country,” they concluded, referring to the two deputy education ministers Muslimin Yahaya and Datuk Mah Hang Soon.

The seven other MPs who signed the statement are Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad representing PKR, former deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching representing DAP, Datuk Hasan Baharom representing Parti Amanah Negara, Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau representing Sabah party United Progressive Kinabalu Association (Upko), former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman representing the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah representing Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) and Ahmad Hassan representing Parti Warisan Sabah.

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