While Covid-19 has disrupted classroom sessions across the country for well over a year now, the side effects of the health measures put in place to curb the virus spread have been especially hard for students in rural Sarawak where a lack of internet and basic infrastructure is taking its toll on their education.
In cities and urban centres, teachers and students have recourse to steady WiFi and the devices needed to conduct home-based teaching and learning, otherwise known as PdPR. Google Meet, Zoom and WhatsApp are familiar terms, and even those without reliable internet connection can keep up with their lessons through the various educational programmes broadcast on television.
For many schools in Sarawak, though, the situation is very different.
SK Nanga Oyan in Kapit, a small town on the bank of Sungai Rajang, does its best to cope with the announcements that trickle down from the top each time new measures are put in place.
But the most recent order for schools to close came at very short notice.
“We were shocked when we heard the announcement,” principal Mohammad Mobun told MalaysiaNow.
“Close all schools in red zones for two weeks? Imagine how chaotic it was that day. We only had one day to prepare all the learning materials our students would need for those two weeks.”
And settling lesson plans was far from the only problem.
Many of the students at SK Nanga Oyan stay at the school’s hostel throughout the academic year. When the order was made for schools to close, one of the most immediate questions for teachers was: how would their students get home?
“Who would send them back to their longhouse?” Mobun said.
The solution in the end was for the teachers themselves to make the trip. They went willingly, Mobun said – but it was tough going for both teachers and students, some of whom were barely seven years old.