KUALA LUMPUR: Schools in rural areas should be allowed to reopen to reduce the education gap between rural and urban areas, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Lukanisman Awang Sauni (GPS-Sibuti) said the main reason for this gap is the poor internet connection in rural areas which forced many students to travel and some even climb hills or go to farms just to get internet connection.

He suggested that the state education directors and district education officers be given the power to reopen schools, especially in rural areas.

“I see that Putrajaya is too ‘Putrajaya-centric’ where the government is busy managing and planning the reopening of schools in city areas. While I agree with the concerns of the parents on their children’s safety, the most affected are the children or students themselves in the rural areas,“ he said.

“One school in Sibuti , Sarawak has a total of 20 students only and it is situated only a few metres from the student’s homes but it has not reopened. There are no detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) to allow these schools in the rural areas to reopen during this Covid-19 period,“ he said.

“Besides that, based on the education ministry’s website, there are a total of 14 schools in Sibuti constituency that have less than 50 students and these schools are located just beside the longhouses, behind it, or just next to the longhouses,“ he said.

However, he said these students have to travel far away from home just to seek internet access, despite their schools being just in front of their eyes.

“I’m confused why there are no measures taken ever since Covid-19 started last year to allow these children to go to school during Covid-19,“ he said.

Starting Oct 3, states under Phase 3 and 4 will allow schools to reopen but states under Phase 1 or Phase 2 of the national recovery plan will remain closed.