Jonathan Chai Voon Tok

KUCHING: If the conditional movement control order (CMCO) is prolonged, it might widen the gap between the educational standards of students in the urban areas and those in the rural areas.

This was pointed out by Jonathan Chai Voon Tok, secretary-general of Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCGCCI) today.
He said since the announcement of the MCO by the federal government to help curb the spread of Covid-19 pandemic, schools and education institutions across the nation had taken great measures to ensure that their students could continue learning through the new norms of digital means.

“As much as online learning platforms are lauded as the next big thing in education, they are still in their infancy and have yet to reach their full potential.

“Also, in order to optimise online learning, we need the right infrastructure and support like internet connectivity, bandwidth and devices which are very much lacking in the rural areas and interior of Sarawak,” Chai added.

He stressed that without these facilities, online learning was not only wasteful but highlighted the second drawback — the inherent inequalities in society.

“As such, those who have the resources and capital can use online platforms to learn, but those who do not, are further disadvantaged.

“This eventually leads to greater division among ‘the haves and have nots’.

Chai added that as the president of the Association of the Boards of Management of the Aided Chinese Primary Schools in Kuching, Samarahan and Serian Division, he had noticed over the years a vast difference between the facilities of the schools in the town areas and those in the rural and coastal areas.

“Even though it’s fortunate that we have the basic infrastructure of internet service for most schools in the rural and coastal areas, its speed and connectivity are far from ideal.   

“For reason of commercial viability, the service providers are reluctant or have been slow in upgrading the infrastructure for bandwidth or internet connectivity and it is therefore vital for the government to intervene to bring development of such infrastructure so that the people in the rural areas will not be left behind,” he said.

Noting the vision of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to transform the state’s economy into a digital economy, Chai said the importance of online facilities was manifested during the movement control order (MCO) and CMCO in many areas, particularly education and commerce.

To promote digital economy, the state government, he added, had been aggressively promoting the use of Sarawak Pay, a mobile application offering a wide range of financial services including a one-stop mobile app payment channel for the public to make payment for bills or purchases via their mobile phones.

“The application has recorded a total registered users of almost 185,000 by December last year, and Muslims in the state can even pay their zakat (tithes) through Sarawak Pay which also encouraged the public to go cashless, especially during the MCO period.

“As dine-in operations came to a halt during the MCO, there was a heavy surge in the delivery orders for Food and Beverages (F&B) operators even though the overall business of these operators has been declining.

“The online orders could at least keep the business afloat to weather the storm in this challenging economy,” Chai said in a press statement today.