Justify RM12 mil Raspberry Pi buy for students

A Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. – Wikipedia photo.

By Chew Lip Song

BANDAR Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii wants the Sarawak government to come clean on its plans to buy RM12 million worth of Raspberry Pi computers for all 1,265 primary school students in the state.

Among others, the lawmaker wants the state to disclose how many such computers it plans to purchase, how they will be distributed, who the suppliers are and whether the award was made through open tender.

He added the disclosure was necessary as the previous federal government’s RM400 million 1Malaysia Notebook project did not achieve its objective as the hardware distributed to students were substandard and spoiled easily.

“While I am for the adoption of modern technology into education and also modern teaching tool in order to provide a better learning environment for the students, but it is important that there is more transparency for the whole agreement to prevent wastage and make sure that these model that is chosen, is suitable for the usage of our primary school students,” he said in a statement today.

Earlier, the state’s Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Amar Michael Manyin had announced plans to purchase these compact single board computers to aid in the teaching of the students in schools starting from next year.

Dr Yii also questioned if the Raspberry Pi computer was a suitable choice for primary school students.

The Raspberry Pi computers, he said, could not replace a full fledged personal computer as it could not run popular Windows software like the Microsoft Office suite which was useful for students.

Dr Yii added that most teachers were also not familiar with Linux Operating System which the device was running on, creating technical barrier for it to be fully utilised.

“So, at the end of the day, if the Minister’s intention for the schools to replace the normal desktop, then the choice of these Raspberry Pi is not suitable and we do not want to end up wasting RM 12 million for something that may not be user friendly for the students and even teachers,” he added.

Dr Yii said Manyin should justify on the choice of such computers for the primary school students.

A better alternative to narrow the digital gap between the rich and the poor was to assist students in purchasing proper laptops that could be used for their home-based learning especially during this Covid-19 pandemic, he added.