POOR WiFi connectivity remains a major barrier to many doing home-based teaching and learning while schools remain closed.
Those who received digital devices under the Penang E-Learning Programme are now equipped with the necessary hardware, but Internet connectivity remains a problem for some.
Their circumstances were highlighted during an online engagement session with Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, Malaysia Semiconductor Industry Association (MSIA) and Penang E-Learning Computer Programme chairman Chong Eng on Saturday.
Among them was SM Convent Bukit Mertajam student V. Praveena, 17, who spoke on behalf of her friends.
While she thanked the Penang government for the computers that her friends and she received, she highlighted the troubled network connection.
“It was hard for me and my brother to attend online classes because we shared our parents’ phone. Now, with help from the government, we can attend all classes.
“But many students including my friends face Internet connection problems. I wonder if the government can provide free data or WiFi facilities for such students,” she said.
SK Sungai Ara senior assistant Azani Abdullah said 33 pupils in the school received digital devices from the state’s programme and if they could have WiFi support, it would further boost their learning abilities.
“We identified those who are keen in online learning but some are still left out.
“Although pupils who previously faced difficulty in obtaining devices are now showing better attendance after being provided with computers, having sufficient WiFi connectivity will be an added help as many still rely on their parents’ phones to connect to the Internet,” she said.
SK Sin Ya headmaster Beh Khoon Seng said lack of Internet connection was a common problem, but it should not be a reason for children to be left out of education.
“Once education is missed, they are left out and their future is affected.
“About 90% of pupils who are absent from online classes said it was due to lack of Internet access.
“Any assistance will be of great help to low-income families.
“I hope the students who got help with getting computers will also receive assistance to obtain Internet connection,” he said.
MSIA president Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai said so far, Penang E-Learning Computer Programme had disbursed about RM2mil worth of laptops and hopes it will continue growing.
“We are delighted to pool all resources and donate 1,562 laptops at a cost of RM2.02mil donated by 27 companies.
“We targeted only 1,500 units and exceeded the target.
“Every single sponsorship counts and nothing is too small,” he said.
Chow said the issue of Internet connectivity had always been a concern of the government as there were still weaknesses in the infrastructure.
“There is no quick solution as it takes time for service providers to perfect their coverage.
“We believe the initiation of the country’s connectivity plan will resolve the problem in years to come.
“For a short-term measure, we got sponsorship from YTL Communications.
“Having connectivity is an important component to ensure the success of Penang E-Learning Programme,” he said.