Union solidarity for distance learning for marginalized students

Education International has joined the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) to help Malaysian students from poor and marginalized communities access online courses, which are vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NUTP Charity Center provides students with tools and resources for remote teaching and learning. This is an important service as over 30 percent of students in Malaysia do not have access to tools such as computers, smartphones or the internet. This limits access to online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to NUTP.

The NUTP Charity Center was established to help parents get tools for their children to attend teaching and learning sessions from home.

The Charity Center helps to bridge the digital divide

"The COVID-19 crisis is not just a health or economic crisis, but also a people and education crisis," said Secretary General Harry Tan. "Through this initiative, the NUTP aims to help students learn during the pandemic and prevent dropouts."

Since the start of the initiative, the NUTP has been able to provide more than 50 students with laptops or desktop computers (equipped with at least Windows 7 applications) or smartphones with access to applications such as WhatsApp and Zoom Meeting.

Education International: Dialogue with teachers' unions to avoid drop-outs

The Regional Office of Education International Asia-Pacific (EIAP) joined the NUTP initiative by providing desktop computers, bags and stationery to a school that welcomed Orang Asli (indigenous) students. The school principal, Syed Zulkafli Syed, told NUTP and Education International that more than 40 percent of the students in the Orang Asli community at that school were from extremely poor backgrounds and had no access to online classes due to a lack of computers and internet connections.

Anand Singh, EIAP's Chief Regional Coordinator, emphasized that while the Malaysian government claims to be promoting the use of digital tools to ensure teaching and learning are not compromised, “the COVID-19 pandemic affects digital, rural and urban disparities as well as the gender-specific differences aggravated ”.

In most Asia-Pacific countries, “the public education system has poor infrastructure, many students lack the tools to access online learning, such as computers or smartphones, and too many students, especially those on the margins of society and rural areas in most cases do not have access to the internet, ”he added.

Governments, in consultation with teachers and their unions, should find ways to reopen schools while maintaining the health and safety of teachers and students. Otherwise, the number of out-of-school children will increase along with child labor, gender differences, and drop-outs, warned Singh.

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