It all started when five 19-year-old students embarked on an initiative to help 100 first-year university students from Beaufort, Sabah, who were facing challenges with Open and Distance Learning (ODL).
Irdina Jailani together with her four friends, Intan Nur Atira, Azza Izatul, Nur Fatin Farihah, and Azizah Abd Jais, started #BahBantuSiswa earlier this month to help fellow students having a hard time with ODL.
When the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) announced on Oct 2 that universities were to postpone physical registrations, many students had to turn to ODL from home. But, most students there have problems affording or obtaining Internet access.
Realising these challenges faced by their fellow students, Irdina came up with the idea of providing ODL allowances in the form of reloads to first-year university students in her hometown Beaufort.
The girls then decided to continue with the fundraising and help other first year students from all over the state and country.
From Oct 8 to Oct 17, they raised RM12,447 from over 70 individual donors, as well as organisations such as Amanz Media and Gabungan Persatuan Belia Bahagian Pedalaman Bawah.
The beneficiaries comprised 390 first-year university students from 27 universities all over Malaysia and 26 districts all over Sabah.
Each student received an ODL allowance in the form of RM30 reload credited to their phone number.
“We purchased the reloads online and also at shops to support local businesses and then credited it to the phone numbers of the students,” Irdina says.
Irdina and her friends reveal that they were initially inspired by the many Malaysians who came out to help impacted university students all over the country when the ministry's announcement was first made earlier this month.
Following the announcement, most universities had cancelled physical registrations and students were even barred from entering the university. Many students were caught off-guard by the last minute decision: they had already paid for bus and flight tickets, and had to pay rental for accommodation even though they weren’t staying there since they were barred from entering the university. They had nowhere to go because they didn’t have relatives living nearby nor any money to return home.
“On that day, we saw many Malaysians on social media platforms offering help to these students using the hashtags #RakyatJagaRakyat and #SiswaJagaSiswa. Help came in the form of providing shelter, pocket money, free rides (transport), food and more,” Irdina reveals.
From Oct 4 to Oct 8, Irdina and her friends did a survey (using Google forms), asking students about the challenges that they have been facing during the pandemic and they received many responses.
“More than 180 of our peers from all over Sabah shared their experiences on how difficult e-learning during the pandemic has been for them,” Irdina shares.
However, they found that not just university students in Sabah, but also the rest of Malaysia have been impacted.
Mazlan Aziz, 19, who studies at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim, Perak, says: “I had issues with connectivity because my handphone only has a basic usage plan. It’s been really hard for me since the first day I started online classes. Moreover, my house is rather far from town and I couldn’t go out to purchase credit because of the movement restrictions,” he says.
Mazlan applied for #BahBantuSiswa when he heard about it on social media and received RM30 credit which he used it to buy a data plan so that he could attend classes online.
“I’m really grateful to #BahBantuSiswa because they really made a difference for me,” he says.
Syakirah Athirah Abdulla Hamid, 19, who studies at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Skudai, Johor, says that the main problem for her is an Internet connection.
“There’s no WiFi at my place so I need to buy my own Internet data to attend classes online. I spent quite a huge amount of money just to buy data reloads,” she says.
Syakirah says that the RM30 reload provided by #BahBantuSiswa really helped lessen her financial burden.
Mohammad Azri Mubin, 19, who studies at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, in Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, says that poor Internet connectivity caused him to miss online classes.
“I had trouble with the Internet connectivity which caused me to miss some of my online classes as my Internet quota isn’t sufficient nor stable. It’s also hard to ask questions during lectures,” he says.
Mohammad Azri says that he is happy that #BahBantuSiswa has helped him and other students to buy an Internet plan for their ODL.
“This is an impressive initiative led by the teenagers themselves,” he says proudly.
According to Irdina, the team of five had earlier embarked on another project called Mask Kitani, where they successfully distributed around 1,800 reusable facemasks to targeted groups in Beaufort, Tawau and Labuan.
“The response to the two initiatives has been great and it’s wonderful that Malaysians are stepping up to help those in need. And we urge more to step up and start such efforts for society,” Irdina says.
Both Mask Kitani and #BahBantuSiswa are under a registered local NGO called Pertubuhan Kebajikan Impak Komuniti Sabah (PIKOS, Sabah Community Impact Welfare Organisation).
More info at: facebook.com/pikosabah