With the Covid-19 pandemic temporarily putting a stop to physical classes nationwide, teaching sessions by schools, universities and colleges are taking place online.
But not all students are fortunate enough to own a computer, nor a decent Internet connection, to cope with online lessons.
Realising this, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have pledged to contribute new or second-hand laptops to underprivileged students.
Established by a group of specialist doctors and non-medical volunteers, Medical Awareness Camp Outreach (Maco) provides meals, food aid and refurbished computers to students.
Originally, it provided free medical services to the poor through its medical camps in urban poor and rural areas.
Then, it started The School Project (TSP) to create a more lasting impact on students.
Under TSP is its Computer Empowerment Programme, which provides refurbished desktops and laptops to schools and students.
Maco co-founder and spokesperson Datin Dr Low Pek See said that through their other services, they found that a lot of students lacked access to laptops and desktops for online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We started refurbishing used laptops and desktops that were donated to us before handing them out to needy students.
“Kenny Khoo, a TSP committee member in charge of the technical side, would instal a new hard disk and webcam in the donated computers as well as provide headphones for the students.
“We work with the schools’ board of directors, Parent-Teacher Associations and school administrations to identify poor students who are in need of digital gadgets, before handing the laptops to them,” said Dr Low.
As of June, Maco has handed out about 300 laptops to students and 300 desktops to schools for their computer laboratory.
Meanwhile, student-led initiative Buku Jalanan Chow Kit (BJCK) aims to help students who need gadgets for online learning.
Their goal is to provide equal education opportunities to all children.
The NGO’s mathematics teacher and centre manager Atikah Yusri said BJCK started in 2015 as a mobile library for urban poor children.
“Previously, we conducted classes for children aged between 13 and 17 and guided them in their homework.
“Some of them were stateless children and they could not go to public school,” she said, adding that BJCK decided to have its own centre after a few years.
“Currently, we are donating refurbished laptops for these students to use in their online learning,” said Atikah.
Meanwhile, a group of university students set up Connect.ED to ensure underprivileged students keep up with their studies. They established it last October after participating in the McKinsey Youth Leadership Academy programme.
It now focuses on providing students with access to digital resources such as laptops and upskilling workshops.
Co-founder Chan Wei Sheng said they raised funds by selling tote bags with student artwork printed on them, besides refurbishing donated laptops for secondary students from B40 families.
“Then, we select our beneficiaries after understanding the applicant’s household income level, their need for a digital device and their level of commitment to their studies.
“We also check with school staff members on the validity of the applicant’s plight, including information regarding a student’s drive, participation in class and eagerness to learn, before donating laptops to them.
“We welcome second-hand laptops as well as monetary donations from the public,” he said.
To date, they have received 92 laptops from individual donors and corporate partners.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Economics and Management Faculty has also stepped up to help needy students by initiating the MyDigitalBudi project to help B40 students own laptops for online learning.
They hope to help 100 beneficiaries in the Bangi area.
Individuals and companies who wish to contribute can call or email the NGOs (see table) for more details.