Brothers climb hill to get internet connection for classes

PAPAR – If there’s a will, there’s way. This saying best describes the determination of three siblings from Kampung Gana here to follow the Home-based Teaching and Learning (PdPR) programme which was introduced this year.

Unlike their friends who just switch on their gadgets from the comfort of their rooms, Joshua Emmanuel Jeffrey, 12, Jordon Emmanuel, nine, and Joshean Emmanuel, eight, have to spend 20 minutes going up a hill behind their house to reach a spot where they can get good internet connection.

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But the three brothers feel that their daily trek up the hill at 8.30 am is worth the effort, as it enables them to follow online lessons under PdPR.

Joshua said they were accompanied by either their mother Esther Dungin, 37, or father Jeffrey Joseph, 41, when going up the hill, located about 500 metres behind their house.

They spend about three hours each to follow the PdPR lessons with their respective teachers.

Fun experience

“The experience of climbing the hill was fun although we had to bear with insect bites. I hope our house can have good internet connection so that we don’t have to go up the hill anymore. Today, I learnt the Chinese language, Bahasa Malaysia and many others,” he said here today.

Joshean said the internet reception in their house is not strong enough for them to perform various PdPR activities online.

Esther said good internet access is essential for her children to use applications like email and YouTube in the course of their PdPr sessions.

“During the Movement Control Order period, everything is done via internet and even the homework is sent by email. Without strong internet connection it is difficult to get things done, and that is why we had to search for a spot with good internet signals on the hill,” she added.

Esther said before her husband found the hilltop location, they had to access the internet from the roadside.

“When he found the ideal location, we cleaned up the area and started using it for the online sessions on Jan 20,” she said.

Esther hoped that the internet problems in Kampung Gana and its surrounding areas would be solved soon to make it easier for students to attend online classes.

Standardise teaching hours

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) in a related development, has proposed that the timetable for students attending physical classes and those going through PdPR, be standardised for all schools nationwide.

Secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said this was important in ensuring quality of PdP as teachers and students could lose focus and get tired if the sessions were too long.

“The NUTP found that there are schools that require teachers to teach from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm which exceeds the official teaching hours which should end at 2.30 pm.

“The long hours in school can be exhausting, making the students lose interest in preparing for the coming SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) and STPM (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia) and the same goes to teachers who have earlier been working hard preparing and teaching the students via online classes,” he said in a statement today.

He added that it is feared that the health of teachers and students may be affected as the long hours in class would deprive them of leisure activities which are needed to help strengthen the body’s immunity during the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Meanwhile, Tan also called on the Education Ministry (MOE) to review the safety aspects of teachers who are currently conducting face-to-face learning sessions for students sitting for the major examinations.

He said, the MOE should provide the teachers with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and overcoats, in accordance with set standard operating procedures.

Tan also urged the relevant parties to be more sensitive to the COVID-19 situation and to refrain from organising activities that could expose people to risk of infection

All must chip in

Government-owned companies (GLCs), multinational companies (MNCs), foundations and elected representatives meanwhile have been urged to play their part to resolve issues affecting the PdPr programme.

Dewan Negara People’s Well-being Committee Caucus chairman Senator Datuk Razali Idris said there are issues concerning unequal internet access and lack of technology devices for students and teachers, which burdened parents.

They mainly affect parents under the B40 (lower-income) and M40 (middle-income) groups who are badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The caucus strongly calls on GLCs and MNCs related to telecommunications to show solidarity by providing internet and smartphone packages at a reasonable price as well as unlimited data for internet access.

“Foundations and elected representatives must come forward to assist these target groups who are facing problems of poor internet access with regard to PdPr sessions,” he said in a statement here today.

Expedite tower constructions

At the same time, Razali also urged the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to expedite the construction of telecommunications towers and intensify the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP).

He said the ministry should also mobilise logistics and internet supply vehicles to help areas with poor access to internet.

“On the other hand, the Education Ministry needs to speed up with the list or data to identify students who lack technology gadgets through the school database and the Parent-Teacher Association (PIBGs),” he added.

Based on the findings of a survey on Student Readiness for Online Learning conducted in mid-2020, more than 30 per cent or 280,000 students nationwide do not possess any electronic devices to follow PdPr sessions.

“The study involving 670,118 respondents who are parents to 893,331 students showed that six per cent have personal computers, laptops (9.3 per cent), tablets (5.8 per cent) and smartphones (46.5 per cent).”

Razali said the challenges of PdPr in national education must be addressed properly because it can affect the prospects of life and long-term social mobility as well as physical and mental health of a family.

“Therefore, an effort to enhance technology usage and narrow the digital gap between all levels of society must be made immediately. If not, the long-term effect will widen the disparity and cause more children to drop out,” he said.