IN June, a young, gritty girl from one of Sabah’s interior villages refused to let poor Internet connectivity be an excuse for her to not excel.
Veveonah Mosibin (pic) became a YouTube sensation after videos of her trekking in the jungles and climbing atop trees to sit for her exams went viral.
As a 42-year-old PhD candidate struggling like any other student to cope with learning in the new normal, I followed the coverage and social media comments on Veveonah with great empathy and respect.
But unlike her, I am fortunate to have the devices and a relatively fast Internet connection for digital learning.
Yet even with such advantages, virtual learning is stressful because technology is temperamental.
When you have an assignment due or a Zoom meet to attend and you can’t get connected, it isn’t mere frustration or annoyance that washes over you – it is panic and anxiety.
So when Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin and Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri claimed that Veveonah was only pretending to sit for her varsity exams on a treetop to gain publicity, I, like many Malaysians, was shocked and disgusted.
By and large, Malaysians rallied to support the Universiti Malaysia Sabah student, but there were also those telling her to just suck it up and it was no big deal, dismissing her as a fame-chasing YouTuber. Some said that if she was hurt by such insignificant comments, she would never be able to handle the pressures of life.
Understandably hurt and disturbed, Veveonah disconnected herself from all social networks, after posting proof of her online exams schedule, accompanied by the caption: “Fake news is dangerous, I get lots of negative comments”.
She said the pressure was not something she could handle and that it had caused a lot of harm. Expressing her sadness and disappointment over the hurtful remarks, she reminded Internet users that such comments could cause distress to others.
She returned to social media recently with photos of her and Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin who had apologised for the remarks made by the deputy ministers. A photo of her smiling next to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin soon followed.
Now, unless you are in her shoes – and by that, I mean being an 18-year-old who is trying to do her best despite the obvious challenges – it’s not fair for anyone to assume that they know what she’s going through or to tell her how she should feel.
Faced with the same circumstances, an adult who has had the privilege of experience to mature in confidence and character would probably be unfazed by the attention and cyberbullying Veveonah has had to endure.
But lest we forget, she is only a teenager, albeit an amazing one, who is still learning to navigate her way in life. Expecting her to shrug off rude and insulting comments because that’s part of growing up is condescending and downright insensitive.
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