KUCHING (Nov 21): The Sarawak government has been urged to justify its plan to purchase Raspberry Pi computers for all primary schools in the state, said Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.
Dr Yii opined that more information needed to be furnished regarding the plan, which would cost RM12 million to distribute the computers to all 1,265 primary schools, in the spirit of transparency and accountability.
“While I am for the adoption of modern technology into education and also modern teaching tools to provide a better learning environment for the students, it is important that there is more transparency for the whole agreement to prevent wastage,” he said in a statement today.
He said that State Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Amar Michael Manyin, who recently announced the plan, should also answer how many of such computers did the state government intend to purchase with the RM12 million and how many each primary school would receive.
“Who has obtained this tender and was it done by open tender to get the most competitive prices for the computer and not merely to profit any single crony with inflated prices at expense of public funds?” Dr Yii questioned.
Manyin had recently announced each primary school will receive several units of the compact single-board Raspberry Pi computer beginning next year and an agreement had been made with Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd to supply the computers all the way from England.
Dr Yii remarked such questions need to be addressed in a transparent manner, since the past mistakes of the RM400 million 1Malaysia Notebook project should not be repeated, given its low quality and the project did not achieve the intended target.
“Another important question we need to ask is the suitability of these Raspberry Pi to provide a conducive learning environment for our primary school students.”
He said the latest Raspberry Pi 4 computer runs on Linux Operating System called Raspbian OS, which is time consuming to install the software and complicated for primary school students.
While the Raspberry Pi computer has decent processing speed, Dr Yii opined it could not replace a fully-fledged personal computer (PC) running on Windows software, where programmes like Microsoft Words, Microsoft Excel and Power Point are important for the student’s learning experience.
“On top of that, most teachers are also not familiar with Linux OS. All these tech devices should be user-friendly and easily adopted so that it does not create technical barriers for it to be fully utilised.”
Thus, Dr Yii believed the choice of Raspberry Pi computer is not suitable for primary schools if it is to replace normal desktop and the state should not put the RM12 million for the project into waste for something that may not be user friendly and not achieving a conducive learning environment.
“If the government intends to narrow the digital gap between the rich and the poor and also those in urban and rural divide, then I suggest they look at finding ways to assist the students to purchase proper laptops so that they can also use for their home-based learning especially during this Covid-19 season,” said Dr Yii.