Education as chicken wings and sardines: Only in Malaysia

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Recently, the Perak state government distributed 20,000 Yes Altitude 3 phones to students in the B40 community. However, critics noted that the devices were unsuitable for online learning as they were only adequate for basic applications.

The Yes Altitude 3 has low specifications for a current-era device, with a 5.0″ 854×480 pixel resolution display, a 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6379WA processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of storage, and a small 2,000mAh battery.

Perak Education, Higher Learning and Human Resources Committee Ahmad Saidi Mohamad Daud chairman recently clarified that the low-quality phones were issued on purpose to prevent students from misusing them for gaming purposes.

Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad has explained that the phones were not obtained using public funds but, in fact, were contributed by the YTL Foundation. He urged the students to bersyukur (be thankful) that they are getting any phone at all.

“If people want to give us alms when we are in difficult times, we should accept it and not demand this and that. If people give us sardines when we are in difficult times, let us eat the sardines. Let us not say we want to eat chicken. “The story is that these smartphones were given to us for free and we (the state government) accepted them and distributed them to the students.” – Perak MB, Saarani Mohamad-

“I am very grateful to YTL Foundation and I welcome any company that wants to collaborate with the state government to offer free contributions, especially for the poor […],” – Perak MB, Saarani Mohamad-

The state government’s attempt to distribute phones for students to attend online classes, has been seen to bring more problems rather than benefits.

It is undeniable that the phones may be sufficient for basic communication like phone calls, texts and WhatsApp, but students need to perform more demanding tasks such as video conferencing, and running learning and productivity applications for online learning.

Many netizens took to social media platforms to complain about the defects in the phones. Some of the problems complained of included the phone heating up, lagging issues, bad camera qualities and in worse cases, the phone bursting into flames.

Amid MCO 3.0, students are stuck at home and have no option but to depend on these phones for their education. The importance of education has always been emphasized, with most Malaysians familiar with the saying “Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya.”

Due to the improper handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Malaysia, we are still in the state of lockdown whereas many big nations such as Australia, New Zealand, America and Europe have lifted all COVID-19 related restrictions. In these countries, most students are going back to school physically, as their leaders understand the importance of uninterrupted education and are doing their best to ensure students are not too adversely affected by the pandemic.

However, in Malaysia, ministers are now comparing our future generations education to chicken wings and sardines. It is not about “beggars can’t be choosers”, but what they have provided is genuinely not enough. These low-performing phones, although given for free, have caused more problems and stress for students who are already struggling to keep up in the pandemic.

“From the 100,000 phones that have been distributed (by YTL Foundation) across Malaysia, only one caught fire. We won’t see this as a reason for us to investigate…If I buy many lightbulbs for my house and one burns out, I won’t be angry at the company,” – Perak MB, Saarani Mohamad-

Malaysia needs leaders who value their citizens educational needs and try to put themselves in their shoes. Imagine having to cope with online learning methods on a phone that heats up and lags, all while being called “ungrateful” by the very people you voted for to defend your rights.

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