I REFER to the media reports about Veveonah Mosibin, an 18-year-old pre-university student who created quite a stir nationwide after she uploaded a video on YouTube of her climbing a tree to get Internet access to do her exams online.
She comes from Pitas, a rural district in Sabah where many households are still not connected to the electricity grid. In 2018,19,761 houses in Sabah did not have access to electricity supply. This means that tens of thousands of Sabahans are cut off from this essential utility.
Veveonah’s story has shed light on the lack of basic facilities, like good roads and electricity supply, in many parts of Sabah, a fact that the university where she was doing her foundation course should have known.
The onus is on the university, as the local education institution, to ensure that no student is unfairly disadvantaged due to the lack of basic infrastructure.
As the public saw it, the university lacked empathy and awareness of the challenges faced by students like Veveonah.
On June 16, the university conducted a survey to identify students who faced problems with distance/online learning. While this is a step in the right direction, it is astonishing that this was not done before the exams began. It was reported, however, that the university had notified students that they could stay on campus if they lacked the facilities in their hometown to take the online exams.
Since the video went viral, the university has looked into a number of ways to solve the problem, including setting up a gadget-borrowing scheme for students and allowing those in their final year to return to campus to finish their studies.
These are welcome steps, but more can be done to ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged by online learning. Students who are eligible should, before sitting for their exams, be allowed to apply for “extenuating circumstances” consideration when assessments are made.
However, the option to apply for extenuating circumstances is not common among IPTAs (public institutes of higher learning) nationwide. Veveonah’s plight has given the university the opportunity to take the lead in this matter.
Another worrying issue is the lack of awareness among many users of social media of the situation in certain parts of Sabah. While netizens rushed to applaud Veveonah for her hard work, many ignored the issue that led her to make the video in the first place. Several highly liked comments demonstrate the general reception towards her struggle, among them “Terus saya ambil dia kerja. Org mcm adik ni rajin, bertanggungjawab & kuat usaha (I’d employ her immediately. She’s responsible and hard-working)” and “Please give her a SCHOLARSHIP.” (Both comments are taken from Astro Awani’s Facebook post.)
All the assistance that Veveonah has received are similar in two ways: they are individualistic and reactionary. The problem with this is that people can question the sincerity of the many organisations rushing to help her now. How will these organisations deal with the real issues once the people’s interest subsides?
Being offered a scholarship is wonderful, but what about the hundreds, possibly thousands, more students just like her?
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission released plans to introduce 4G connectivity at her village, but will they provide connectivity to other villages after the issue boils over?
I believe we all share the same hope that the organisations that are making headlines right now for providing assistance to Veveonah will continue their efforts to help others in need well into the future.
ISKANDAR AMEEN SUHAIMI
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