NST Leader: Education, a basic right

When schools closed during the MCO, classes went online. But reportedly there were many issues, including teachers who were not prepared nor trained to conduct classes online and the lack of a virtual syllabus. - NSTP pic, for illustration purposes onlyWhen schools closed during the MCO, classes went online. But reportedly there were many issues, including teachers who were not prepared nor trained to conduct classes online and the lack of a virtual syllabus. – NSTP pic, for illustration purposes only

A RECENT survey conducted by two United Nations agencies has disclosed some disturbing data.

Carried out by the UN Population Fund and UN Children’s Fund, the “Family On Edge” survey revealed that the number of students returning to schools has dropped at an alarming rate as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the survey, one of the areas posing new challenges to policymakers as they battle the pandemic is education. School closings due to Covid-19 have turned a spotlight on such problems and while schools reopened after the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), not all students have returned.

The survey reported that seven per cent of upper secondary age children from poor families have not returned.

What’s more, the parents surveyed reported that the long lay-off from school seemed to have negatively affected their children, whom, for the most part, have lost interest in education. The biggest challenge facing the respondents, however, was the cost factor.

While one in five reported that their children were demotivated or disinterested in school, one in two said they could not afford neither the tuition fees nor pocket money, while a fifth said they could not afford transportation costs.

The survey was of households in low cost flats in the Klang Valley, so we do not know how accurate it is on a national scale, but, it stands to reason that parents living in other urban centres are facing similar predicaments.

When schools closed during the MCO, classes went online. But reportedly there were many issues, including teachers who were not prepared nor trained to conduct classes online and the lack of a virtual syllabus.

If schools in the Klang Valley reported a seven per cent drop in attendance between May and September, what are the national numbers now? This pandemic has played merry hell with the global economy.

Reports say the ones benefiting from the pandemic are medical equipment companies, glove makers and the digital industry. That education is one of the sectors which is suffering is a crying shame.

That children are deprived of the basic right to education because of the economics of it all is a bigger shame. The government,therefore, should step in to help those who cannot afford to send their children to school.

There is an opportunity for just this with the 2021 Budget. The budget should allocate funds for a programme to help children go back to school. Efforts must be taken to ensure that schools are prepared to go online should there be future outbreaks or disasters.

In developed countries, schools, particularly in winter and snowbound countries, have a backup online learning system.

We do not experience winter, but we do have the annual monsoon season which causes floods that lead to school closures in the north and east coast states.

With a backup system, our children would not miss a day of school. That is why the Communications and Multimedia Ministry must ensure broadband reach in the country is adequate and far reaching.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2020/11/636932/nst-leader-education-basic-right

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