IPOH, June 16 — Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Saarani Mohamad today hit back at those who criticised the government for distributing “low quality” smartphones to students from B40 families under its Tuisyen Cikgu Saarani (TCS) programme.

Saarani stressed that these students would not be able to attend online learning (PdPR) classes otherwise.

“It is better than not owning a smartphone at all. Imagine, if the 20,000 students had no smartphone at all, how are they going to carry out their online learning?

“The state executive council meeting and state Education, Higher Education and Human Resources Committee chairman Ahmad Saidi Mohammad Daud inspected the smartphones and the features were deemed suitable for students to conduct their online learning,” he told a press conference via Zoom today.

Saarani also said the Yes Altitude 3 smartphones were donated by the YTL Foundation.

“The phones were free. We did not spend a single sen. If someone wants to donate during a time of difficulty, it is better to accept than to say no.

“Furthermore, a total of 100,000 units of the smartphone model have been distributed to students by the YTL Foundation for online learning since the first movement control order last March.

“If the same smartphone was used for online learning since last year, then I don’t know why there should be a problem now with using the same phone for the same purpose,” he said.

When asked to comment on an incident where one of the smartphones allegedly ignited, Saarani said it did not warrant an investigation as only one had caught fire out of the 100,000 distributed by the YTL Foundation.

Yesterday, Perak Amanah Youth communication director Mohd Ikhmal Mohd Iskandar said that the 20,000 smartphones that the Perak government had given to students in the state were poorly equipped and unsuitable for online learning.

He said the devices could only be used for the most basic of applications.

“It is pointless to say we are emulating developed nations in providing new education norms to the country’s next generation when our leaders are stuck with an outdated mindset.

“It is unfortunate that the world is moving into 5G technology, but the thought process of our leaders is still in the era of the Nokia 3310,” he said.

On Monday, Ahmad Saidi announced the distribution of the 20,000 smartphones, saying that they were intentionally low-specification devices to prevent students from using them for gaming.

The SoyaCincau technology news site deduced that the smartphones were basic devices with a MediaTek 1.3GHz processor, 1GB RAM and 8GB of storage.