30 JULY 2013
Two years after the dormitory and teachers quarters of SK Long Tuma, Lawas were destroyed by fire, the staff and students are still waiting for their new hostels to be built. The proposed new hostels were supposed to be completed in February this year but up until today, all that has been done is the foundation and the work appears to have stopped. The staff members are in the dark about the status of the project; they were only told by a sub-contractor that there is a problem with the contract.
The burnt-down double-storey hostel housed over 100 students but after the fire there is room for only 60 boarding students in a temporary block. These students are from the farthest villages of Pa’ Puti, Pa Kepulu and Pengalih, and Year 6 students are also given priority. The other students are left to find their way to school each day.
Besides the unexplained delay in the project, another issue is why the replacement hostels are single-storey cabin module designs which require more land, meaning half of the school football field had to be sacrificed to make room for the hostels. There is now no space for the students to engage in sports or games. This is a real tragedy because sports form such an important part of children’s education, especially in the rural areas. Sports and games contribute greatly to building healthy bodies, encouraging teamwork and cultivating sportsmanship in our children and depriving them of this is robbing them of a vital part of their education.
Another matter of utmost concern is the old wiring in the school. I was informed that the District Education Office had applied for the school to be re-wired but there has been no response as yet. In the meantime, staff and students have to put up with lights and fans that do not function properly. A technician from the Education Office had inspected the wiring and concluded that the problem was due to overloading and old wires. “We are living dangerously”, the headmaster, En Meripa Geluko told me.
Our children are our best resource for the future. Education is the key to a nation’s progress and we must spare no efforts in providing a good basic educational foundation for our students. I am appalled by the conditions of many of the schools in Sarawak. Fifty years after joining the Federation of Malaysia, the Federal government is still unable to provide even adequate facilities for education in Sarawak and I doubt that this scenario is what our forefathers had in mind when they signed up. The state government should conduct an audit of all the schools in Sarawak to assess their needs. There is a lot to be done in many of our rural schools, including SK Long Tuma.
ADUN N70 Ba’ Kelalan