18 FEBRUARY 2014
We are delighted that the DPM is now taking note of the dilapidated schools in Sabah and Sarawak and that the Federal Government will allocate an additional RM1bil for the rebuilding of such schools. This problem has been one of our major concerns and we have raised this matter up frequently in our press conferences and in the state assembly. The announcement by the DPM is therefore welcome news for us, as well as for the many pupils and school staff who have had to put up with inadequate and unsafe schools for many years. It also goes to show, that the opposition tells the truth about the problems faced by the people, contrary to grossly inaccurate picture painted by YB Naroden Majais recently.
In announcing the allocation, the DPM admitted that some of the schools were in such bad shape that they are nearly collapsing. In today’s newspapers, it is reported that there are 800 dilapidated schools in Sarawak and the Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister has said that these schools are unfit for occupancy but continue to be used as the students and teachers have no choice. This is a damning indictment of the extent of the Federal government’s neglect of the needs of Sabah and Sarawak while treating us as their fixed deposit. The cynics among us would question the timing of the DPM’s announcement but let us take his promise in good spirit and see whether his words will translate into action.
The allocation of RM1bil, being for 600 dilapidated schools in both Sabah and Sarawak is not going to be sufficient, since there are 800 dilapidated schools in Sarawak alone, but it is a start. However, some questions arise. Why is it that the figures from the Federal government and the Sarawak Education Department do not tally? The Federal government’s figures suggest that there are fewer such schools in Sarawak than what is disclosed by our Education Department. The Ministry should accept the results of the audit done by the Education Department and allocate more funds to our schools as necessary.
It is stated in the Education Blueprint that by December 2013, all 1,608 schools requiring critical repairs would be fixed and that these repairs would start in Sabah and Sarawak. Are the 600 dilapidated schools in Sabah and Sarawak part of the 1,608 schools requiring critical repairs? Common sense would suggest that they should. Assuming that they belong in that category of schools needing critical repair, does this mean that the Education Ministry has failed to achieve its target of completing all repairs by December 2013?
We would also like to know how the RM1bil is to be utilized and how the allocations will be made. We would like the priority to be given to rural schools as the rural schoolchildren are at a huge disadvantage over those in the cities. Providing good school infrastructure for the rural schools would be a step in addressing the problems of rural inequality and injustice in Sabah and Sarawak. The younger generation in the rural areas deserve the opportunity to learn and better themselves through education and to have that, it is important to provide schools that are conducive to the process of education, not the dilapidated and collapsing buildings that many have to contend with now.
Besides the rebuilding of dilapidated schools, the government needs to address the many other problems faced by our rural schools including the lack of computer and science labs and equipment, competent teachers, libraries with sufficient up-to-date books, etc. We will continue to highlight the needs of our rural schools because we believe that education is the key to economic advancement and freedom from oppression and intimidation, and ultimately, the achievement of true democracy.
I would urge all schools that are in need of rebuilding to submit their requests immediately to the Department of Education, and send us copies of their requests so that we will be able to follow up on the progress of the requests.
Sabah and Sarawak are overdue for our fair share of resources and development and the BN government would do well to pay more heed to our needs.
N70 BA’ KELALAN