Needy students can’t wait for Putrajaya’s free laptops

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As elected representatives deal with increasing requests for laptops from needy students for online learning, questions are being asked over the government’s promise to deliver 150,000 free laptops under Budget 2021.

Yayasan Hasanah, the foundation under state-owned Khazanah Nasional Bhd which is in charge of the free laptops programme, had said the first batch of devices will only be distributed next month.

Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan said details about the laptop should have been decided last year to expedite the process.

“By right, this should have been decided last year. The laptop specifications should have been decided last year,” he said in a statement on Facebook.

He added that even when the free laptops do finally roll out, they will not be enough.

Shahril suggested that the government provide coupon subsidies to students from low-income families to purchase laptops.

“Perhaps, when Budget 2021 was tabled, the government had hoped schools will reopen (this year). But the reality has changed.

“We’re now almost in February and it is still unclear when schools can resume,” he said.

There is now an urgency for laptops as the country went back into a movement control order (MCO 2.0) on Jan 13 and most students are required to attend classes online.

Not all students can afford the data for online classes, let alone laptops.

Among the elected representatives trying to aid students in need is Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim.

Meanwhile, Firzan Hakimi, a vice-president with PKR’s students’ wing, said the government has yet to resolve the matter despite students facing these problems when the country was put under the first MCO.

He urged the government to update the public on the free laptop plan.

“The students and people have a right to know about the distribution process and the criteria used,” he said.

He added that if the government had not used its emergency powers to suspend Parliament, this could have been raised in the House.

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, in his Budget 2021 speech last year, said the free laptop programme would be funded by government-linked companies.

They were to contribute RM150 million for 150,000 students in 500 schools as a pilot project. – Malaysiakini