Autistic students thankful to preacher for much needed tablets

KUALA LUMPUR – A single mother sighed with relief after she received a tablet donated by celebrity preacher Ebit Lew, describing it as a lifeline for her three children with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to follow the home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) method currently in force.

Haslinah Hassan, 40, who lives in a public housing scheme in Jalan Hang Tuah here, said her eldest son Muhammad Nur Izzat Ismail, 13, who studied at SMK Yaacob Latif under the Special Education Integration Program (PPKI) had been feeling disappointed and almost lost his passion for learning after the used desktop computer she had purchased online in October last year had spoilt.

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Haslinah has two other children in school, namely Putri Nur Alya Batrisyia, nine, and Putra Nur Irfan Basir, seven, while her youngest son, Putra Nur Izzuddin Yusuf, three, who also has autism, is sent to the San Peng community rehabilitation centre.

“My three children who go to school are very interested in technology and the Internet. After the desktop broke down, they just learned using my mobile phone, and I would get the school work from their respective schools” said Haslinah, who also has a learning disability and suffers from ADHD herself.

For children in need

However, everything changed when she saw a post on Ebit Lew’s Facebook account on Thursday, with the preacher offering a giveaway of 100 tablets to students in need to follow online classes.

“At around 6 pm on Thursday, I wrote in the comments section of Lew’s post. I mentioned about my son and three of them at school. I also applied for a tablet,” she said, adding that she was contacted by Lew’s staff about 45 minutes later, and received the tablet at her home by 9.30 pm the same day.

Much to her delight, she received a laptop computer from another contributor yesterday.

Haslinah, who has been a single mother since 2019, is unable to work as she has to tend to her four children with special needs, and currently relies on the Social Welfare Department’s (JKM) allowance of RM400 a month, besides assistance from Baitulmal and other donors.

“I am touched by the contribution of Ustaz Ebit Lew, and will make sure this device is used as well as possible,” she said.

According to Haslinah, her eldest and second child can now use the tablet and laptop to follow PdPR, while her third child can use her mobile phone for the purpose.

Meanwhile, Lew’s post about the 100 tablet giveaway was shared by more than 22,000 Facebook users as of this afternoon. Lew in a subsequent Facebook post said that within half a day, he had received 43,000 messages from those who needed a tablet for their children to follow the PdPR.

“There are quite a few who are disabled, unemployed, orphans and with low incomes. Please forgive me, as there are many more whom I couldn’t help,” Lew said in the post.

Need to share

For 45-year-old Mariah Ismail who has five school-going children and sells “kuih” for a living, she could not afford to buy a gadget each for her children.

The only option available for Mariah was to buy a second-hand mobile phone at RM250 so that her five children can take turn in using it during the PdPR session.

“Three of my children, who are in Standard Five, Standard Two and kindergarten will use my smartphone while the other two, who are in secondary school, will share the second-hand one to complete the tasks given by their teachers.

“This is the best way to ensure my children do not lag in their studies,” said Mariah, who lives in Kampung Melor, about 25 km from Kota Bharu city centre.

For a father from Alor Setar, he had to buy two sets of smartphones worth RM1,000 for his two children in Standard Three and Four to follow the PdPR session set by their respective class teachers.

“At home, we have one laptop but I’m using it for my office works. So, to facilitate the PdPR session, there is a need to get smartphones as they are now a necessity for students,” said Azhar Abu Bakar, 58.

Ready to help

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri in a related development said his department was looking to help students, especially those from underprivileged families who were affected by the home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) method.

Without revealing any details of the assistance, he said the matter needed to be looked at carefully and in phases, as it involved various other ministries.

“I have full confidence in the Ministry of Education, and I have also heard many views from various parties, I am confident that when we collaborate with all agencies, we can look at it from a wider angle.

“We will try to help wherever appropriate, because it also involves problems in terms of internet access… InsyaAllah we will try to see (how we can help),” he told reporters after surveying the dining hall project at Masjid Kariah, Taman Bandar Senawang, here today.

In the meantime, he said his department had spent more than RM300,000 for flood and post-flood assistance in ten states, including Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan since November last year.

He added that the involvement of the private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in channeling aid to flood victims was also very encouraging.

Education channel

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) meanwhile has welcomed and supported the suggestion to create a special education television channel which is accessible to pupils from all income levels.

Its president, Aminuddin Awang, said it would be the best method to expand and enhance the process of teaching and learning at home (PdPR) and could give a positive impact on students’ academic performance.

“With a specific channel, students’ focus will be in one direction and its quality aspect can also be monitored,” he told Bernama TV, when contacted, today.

However, Aminuddin said the education channel could not be the only method used in PdPR as it involved one-way communication process, thus it must be combined with virtual teaching and learning sessions.

Previously, the Education Ministry said face-to-face school session which was scheduled for Jan 20 had to be postponed following the current COVID-19 situation in the country, except for candidates of 2020 major examinations and equivalent international examinations.

The decision prompted various reactions from parents, as they had to provide electronic devices and internet access for their children to participate in PdPR process, and said that an education television channel could help solve the issue.

Consider proposals

Meanwhile, the Federation of Peninsula Malay Students (GPMS) opined that the government should seriously consider several proposals such as empowering TV Pendidikan and providing electronic devices and financial assistance to families and students from the B40 group.

Its president, Mohd Alif Anas Md Noor, in a statement today, said a part of the allocation given to the Education Ministry but was not utilised due to the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) should be restructured so as to provide electronic devices to eligible pupils.

“For example, the allocation for the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) and Hostel Food Assistance (BMA).

“If the funding is used for procurement of electronic devices, then almost all pupils from low-income families would enjoy the benefit,” he said.