It is not a secret that the digital divide exists between the rich and poor. The consequences of this phenomena already lie in the name. It divides the population into those who are able, and those who are unable to keep up with new social norms in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Girl Climbs Tree To Get Internet
The most apparent problem came to light almost immediately following the Covid-19 lockdowns. By now Veveonah Mosibin’s name is synonymous to the nation’s digital divide issue.
In case you’ve not read, she’s the university student who climbed a tree in her village for internet connection. But her story was not the only one that caught the public’s attention.
Young Students Jungle Trek To Get Internet
Most recently, Sambau Dugat, a teacher at SMK Lubok Antu, Sarawak, organised a jungle trek so 22 students could study online. They had to hike for two and a half hours to the planned area just so that they could keep up with their e-learning syllabus. Mind you, they still had to journey home for another couple of hours after they were done.
Imagine doing this daily or even weekly. It’s unbelievable, right? Although internet penetration is better than before, it still has a long way to go before reaching everyone.
First World Problems Vs. Real Rural Problems
Connectivity is only half the battle. Insecure or low-speed internet is the bane of people everywhere, especially urbanites. We laugh at #firstworldproblem complaints, but people living in rural areas cannot even make an online phone call without being cut off midway.
The problem doesn’t just lie in being able to connect to the internet, but whether the connection is reliable and fast enough. Many who connect still complain of stuttering video lessons, and un-submitted exam answers due to the unsteady network.
The father of Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi, 20, a university-going student had to set up a tent on top of a 20-metre hill for his daughter just so she can attend online classes and sit for her exams. The struggle to get an education is real and tangible for those who have to hunt for good internet connection.
I am quite stressed with the intermittent internet connection in the village which makes it difficult for me to sit for my examinations. In fact, the two hours provided were insufficient due to the unstable connection. If the internet disconnects, I have to start over and no additional time is given.Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi on The Star
The inability to connect to online classes whenever needed would automatically set the student back in their studies compared to students living in urban areas with better connectivity.
The pandemic has magnified the digital divide and brought to the fore front the needs of students remote areas. We applaud the resilience of students such as Vevenonah and Nurlieda, but at what lengths would someone go to get an education? Would you put your life on the line?
Real Dangers Of The Digital Divide
In Ranau, Sabah, seven villagers fell off a bridge in their attempt to get internet access. The cable of the bridge in Kampung Gusi snapped, causing injuries to the people who were on it.
The most serious of which was an injured spine and a fractured femur. Three of those people were students who went in order to access their online lessons.
These experiences are only a handful of the struggles that the rural communities have to face daily. When implementing new policies, it is important to note the amenities that are currently available, especially in hard to reach areas.
Take a closer look at the disparity found in Malaysia’s education landscape. Download the whitepaper or slides on ‘Shocking Facts on Malaysia’s Education Gap’.
Explore Our Sources:
- Liew, E. (November 2020). Sarawak Teacher Takes 22 Students On A 2-Hour Hike Just To Find Internet For Studies. World of Buzz. Link.
- Department of Statistics Malaysia. (April 2020). ICT Use and Access By Individuals and Households Survey Report, Malaysia, 2019. Link.
- The Star. (November 2020). Father sets up daughter’s ‘classroom’ in a tent at top of a hill. Link.
- Chung, C. (November 2020). Government urged to bridge connectivity divide. The Star. Link.