The initiative includes contributions from 13 GLCs and GLICs, representing companies under Khazanah, PNB, EPF and Petronas
by ASILA JALIL / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE Cerdik initiative, which aims to alleviate the burden of lower-income families by providing laptops for students from such households, has come under fire. It was revealed that the assistance, which includes distribution of 150,000 laptops, is a loan programme.
In Budget 2021 speech last year, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Utama Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-linked investment companies (GLICs) will contribute RM150 million into Tabung Cerdik to provide laptops to 150,000 students in 500 schools as a pilot project to facilitate online education.
However, The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) learned that Cerdik is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by GLCs and GLICs.
“Cerdik is a CSR effort and it is not an item under the budget,” a source told TMR yesterday.
In a statement dated Jan 25, the secretariat of the initiative, Yayasan Hasanah, said Cerdik will provide digital access comprising laptops, tablets and data connectivity to students from lower-income families and is set for rollout starting this month.
The initiative includes contributions from 13 GLCs and GLICs, representing companies under Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas).
Yayasan Hasanah, which is the impact-based foundation of Khazanah, said it will administer the contributions in cash and kind from participating companies while working in partnership with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education.
The foundation’s communication unit told TMR that they are still working on the initiative and will, subsequently, issue a statement in several days on the updates.
Meanwhile, PKR communications director Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil (picture) and Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman took to Facebook to question the basis of the laptops being provided as a loan for 12 months instead of giving them to the students in need.
On Monday, Ahmad Fahmi urged the government to provide updates on the laptops that have yet to be distributed as schools have reopened since Jan 20, either physically for Form 5 students or online learning for the rest.
“Fourteen days have passed, but we still do not know when the laptops would be distributed, in which 500 schools were selected out of 10,220 schools, and what happens if the 150,000 laptops failed to be distributed.
“Feb 9 would be the last day for Form 5 students in school, but we still do not know where the laptops are,” he said on his Facebook page.
Later that night, Ahmad Fahmi made a new post and highlighted that the students would have to return the laptops to the government as the laptops would only be a loan.
“Why did Tengku Zafrul not mention this in Budget 2021 presentation the other day?” he said.
Similarly, Syed Saddiq questioned why the matter was not brought up when the budget was tabled last year.
“If I refer to the Cerdik initiative’s official website, the procedure for this laptop ownership is similar to the Textbook Loan Scheme. The laptops will be borrowed to selected students,” he said.
He also drew comparisons to the initiative under Barisan Nasional’s administration where RM450 million were allocated to provide netbooks for students, which were not a loan.
“If I, an Opposition MP who received funds from Malaysians (because the allocations for Opposition Parliament were slashed) can provide for the students, why is it hard for the government?” said the Muar MP.
The former youth and sports minister has been distributing laptops to families in his constituency. He recently launched a fundraiser to buy tablets for students in Muar under the ThunderBOLD initiative which includes a short course on critical thinking, oratory and writing skills.
Read our previous report here