Universiti Malaysia Sarawak student Rachel Ruran Leong is in her final year of a fouryear programme, and has been a beneficiary of BB1M for the past three years since she started her course. She believes that she is one of the few who use it for its intended purpose of purchasing textbooks, although she’s heard of others using it to buy stationery, hard disks or even shoes, the latter two especially during the first few years it was introduced.
“I’m a very old-fashioned person; I like using physical books, and my university mostly uses international textbooks from Pearson, Cambridge and the like, which can be expensive. BB1M helps to somewhat reduce my financial burden as a student, since I prefer to purchase original, first-hand textbooks where possible, and each textbook can cost RM200-RM300,” Rachel explains.
Daniel Darnas, who was on a study loan which covered his tuition and allowances at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak, shared that BB1M helped cushion his savings. “By using the BB1M to buy textbooks and stationery, for instance, I was able to buy other things that helped with my courses that I otherwise could not have.”
Both Rachel and Daniel agree that the amount of the BB1M vouchers should not be increased. Rachel believes that trying to help all students purchase brand-new books for the entire year would not be the most efficient use of the funds required. Daniel in turn feels that this initiative is supposed to be supplementary aid, not full-fledged financial assistance.
“Though I feel there could be a rebalancing of the amount of distribution over two semesters in a year, RM125 for each half, for example. Having the voucher valid for three months only forces students to finish the whole RM250 in a single semester. It does not encourage good planning and budgeting amongst students,” he adds.
Nevertheless, Rachel likes BB1M. “It is a very good start, and I am happy with the BB1M initiative as it stands,” she explains. She is also very happy with yet another COL NKRA initiative, the KR1M. “While on campus, I find that certain name brands are slightly cheaper in the KR1M, but when I’m back visiting my kampong (village), the KR1M means that we no longer have to travel all the way to town to purchase our daily necessities.” Daniel, meanwhile, thinks that the existing initiatives are helpful. He believes that the Government should amplify their communications on these initiatives so that more people can benefit from them.
Source: National Transformation Programme Annual Report 2015