Michael Manyin Jawong

KUCHING: It has been revealed that more than half of the 1,458 schools in Sarawak have slow or even no internet connectivity.

Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong said this problem affects schools that are mostly in rural and interior areas in the state.

“There are 830 schools which are without or with very low internet connectivity that is below 4 mbps (megabits per second).

“The (federal) Ministry of Education must try to resolve all this, so that students can participate in virtual learning or learning online,” he said during a recent interview at his office.

Virtual or online learning was touted as an alternative to lessons in physical classrooms when schools nationwide were closed for few months following the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) since March 18 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

It had been reported in the media that more than 50 per cent of students in Sarawak were unable to follow online learning as they had no access to internet and the relevant gadgets such as smartphones, computers and tablets.

Students in schools nationwide are now back in schools as physical classes are now being allowed throughout the country but with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place during this Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) period.

On another matter, Manyin said repairs and upgrades of dilapidated schools through various initiatives including the RM1 billion contra loan payment by Sarawak to the federal government, had benefited 501 schools so far.

“There are still 511 more dilapidated schools to be repaired and upgraded,” he said, adding a total 1,020 dilapidated schools were identified by his ministry in 2017.

He also said the Sarawak government is allocating its own funds to connect schools with electricity and treated water.

This included a RM50 million allocation to connect 133 schools to the state’s electricity grid, which is now still ongoing.

On another matter, he hoped to meet Senior Minister of Education Dr Radzi Jidin soon to discuss Sarawak’s proposal to recruit unemployed graduates to address the shortage of local teachers in the state.

He said Sarawak hopes to hire unemployed graduates as temporary teachers first before they are certified with diplomas to qualify as full fledged teachers.

He also believed that local teachers adapt better to local conditions and cultures, and this will stop the problem of high turnover of teachers in rural schools.

“Another reason why we have poor results especially rural schools is because the turnover of the teachers is very high. They go there after two to three years and then they ask for a transfer. Some even after just one year,” he added.