It was mid-week. A cold, rainy afternoon. The drive to the place we were heading to, took a little longer than expected, with traffic and the wet weather making a perfect combination for the slight delay.
A lot went through my mind in just that 15-minutes. The family we were going to see – would they be welcoming, and would they be open to speaking to us. As much as we wanted to get to know them, we understood that we also had to respect the wishes and privacy of families like this.
On 20th October 2021, team UPLIFT visited a family at the Desa Mentari Flats in Petaling Jaya. This has been their home for the past 20 years. Greeting us warmly at the entrance was Selvi, her 2nd daughter who is in Form 2, and a chirpy 8-year-old, Manisha Shiri Kandasamy – the actual reason for our visit.
Manisha is a child with down-syndrome, and has been attending enrichment classes at Persatuan Kebajikan Anak-Anak Istimewa Selangor (ORKIDS). One will not be able to tell the medical conditions Manisha has, apart from the obvious. Her mother disclosed that she also has a heart condition, hearing and eyesight problems, and goes for follow-ups at Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya (PPUM).
When the whole country went into several lockdown phases, this family was left to deal with the sudden loss of income. Manisha’s father, Kandasamy, a lorry driver, was impacted the most. Selvi, being the youngest, coming from a big family, is incredibly grateful to her 11 siblings for looking out for her and the family when times were difficult. Today, Selvi and Kandasamy depends on their eldest 21-year-old daughter, to put food on the table and take care of the family.
Due to school closures and lockdowns, Manisha was unable to attend physical classes. Although classes were conducted online, this child was deprived of proper learning. With only 1 digital device shared between the family, remote learning was challenge.
We do not only hear of Manisha’s family struggling with the lack of digital devices and access to proper connection. This is the digital divide faced by the marginalised. This is digital poverty, prevalent amongst many vulnerable communities throughout the nation. Families living below the poverty line – from the B40 category, children from Orang Asli settlements, refugee, migrant, and stateless children. These children are the future of our country, but the inability to secure a digital device due to family financial constraints have unfortunately stunted their learning journey.
1MillionDevices, a nationwide campaign by UPLIFT launched on 12th October 2021 aims to bridge this digital divide in education by equipping every marginalised school-going child with a digital device.
UPLIFT identifies children in need through its many collaborative partners, and Manisha was one of the children, highlighted by ORKIDS.
Under its 1MillionDevices campaign, UPLIFT presented Manisha with a Samsung tablet, to help ease her education journey. Ms. Doris, a representative from the ORKIDS learning centre quipped that Manisha is at an age where it is peak for absorption, and this device would definitely help the family in more ways than one.
As Team UPLIFT left Manisha and her family to get acquainted with the new device, we knew in our hearts that despite the challenges she goes through as a child with special needs, her family will always be her backbone.
It is in small deeds like this that binds us as one.
If you would like to give a disadvantaged child the right to education, and help us end digital poverty, visit https://1milliondevices.my/