Every so often, heartwarming stories emerge of educators and students alike overcoming hurdles in order for learning to continue, whether that’s a teacher travelling over 100 kilometres daily to reach students in rural areas, or a student who spent the night in a tree for better internet connection to sit for her exams. Stories like these tend to take off on social media because they represent a sense of triumph over adversity. But on the flip side, they also represent a societal failure to ensure access to education for all—a problem that has only been made worse by COVID-19. 

In Malaysia, students have mostly been learning online since the onset of the pandemic and online learning seems likely to continue through August before a gradual reopening of schools. For many students without regular internet access, this has meant falling behind with their lessons. A survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in 2020 with almost 900,000 student respondents suggests that 37% do not have appropriate devices for home learning—and those who do may have to share with others in their household. So while remote learning may be an inconvenience to some, it is a true barrier to education for many, especially those from low-income families. 

On this episode, Dayana Mustak speaks to Mazliza Mahmood, a teacher, and Chan Soon Seng, CEO of Teach for Malaysia. They talk about the educational alternatives available when a pandemic means in-person learning could put lives at risk and what help has been given to support students in need during this time.

For more information on how you can help Mazliza’s students, you can send an enquiry to taniazae@rocketmail.com.

Dayana Mustak

Dayana Mustak is a journalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She has four years of experience in audio storytelling from BFM Radio, WAMU and National Public Radio. Dayana also graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in psychology.