Remote learning has become a way of life for students with schools closed due to COVID-19. But with classes abruptly shifting online, many students from poorer families are at risk of falling behind in their lessons and assignments as they do not own a computer at home.
To help these students, Medical Awareness Camp Outreach (MACO) recently started a Computer Literacy project that aims to provide refurbished computers to students in need. Its president Dr Toh Cheng Teik said the project was started after a primary school in Tropicana reached out to MACO to help provide some of its poorer students with computers.
Founded in 2015 by a group of specialist doctors and volunteers, MACO has been actively providing medical service, food and financial aid to vulnerable communities around the Klang Valley. Since the start of the Movement Control Order (MCO), they have expanded their objectives to assist poor students by providing them with daily meals and assisting their families make ends meet.
Since the start of the project, a group of five IT specialists have joined MACO’s ranks to help with the task at hand. Though a number of the volunteers hold full-time jobs, they still find the time to collect and restore old computers, monitors, printers and other IT equipment from around the Klang Valley.
MACO said it has expanded its scope to help students in two other primary schools: one in Sungai Long and another in Puchong. It said it is sharing its experience with the project and is providing seed funds to kickstart the initiative in these two schools.
But just what kind of computers are they willing to accept? According to Kenny Khoo, an IT volunteer with Maco, they are willing to accept any computer made after the year 2000. It doesn’t matter if you have an old Mac from 2005 or a Windows 8 PC from 2010, Maco will take them in all the same.
According to Khoo, the group is open to refurbish all kinds of computers they receive. Low end computers or those that are very old will be installed with Lubuntu OS, a lightweight Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. He said the team of volunteers initially tried using Chrome OS but had better success with the Linux based operating system.
Computers that are newer will be installed with the very latest operating system they can run, be it Windows 10 Home edition or a compatible version of Mac OS. Once they have the machine up and running, Khoo said they will install basic software like WPS Office, Microsoft Teams, Google Chrome and Zoom for students to use.
At the time of writing, MACO has collected 130 computers of various makes and sizes from companies and individuals. Besides laptops, MACO also said it is looking for donations of USB mice and webcams as many of the desktop computers they receive do not come with them.
The following video from MACO shows an example of an old computer that has been restored to working condition.
Dr Toh said the response from Malaysians from all walks of life has been encouraging and it plans to donate the refurbished computers to poor students from several primary schools in the Klang Valley. He added that MACO will continue the project as long as they receive donated computers and help equip as many underprivileged children with computers for their online lessons.
Those who want to donate their old computers or other hardware can request for a pick-up from any of the MACO volunteers depending on where they live. Alternatively, they can drop their computers at MACO’s Drop-Off Centre, between 9am to 6pm, every Monday to Friday.
For more information on how you can help this worthy cause, go to MACO’s Facebook page.