Wednesday, September 3, 2014

SK Long Semadoh: A disaster waiting to happen

by Joanna Yap, Posted on September 3, 2014, Wednesday

SK Long Semadoh pupils living in fear of collapsing roof, villagers and staff forced to do repairs themselves
Tree trunks and large stones are used to provide additional support to the crumbling supports beneath the school hall.

The water tanks next to the school hall are left empty due to concerns that their concrete posts will give way, causing the full tanks to crash into the already precariously positioned school hall.
LONG SEMADOH, Lawas: The students and staff of SK Long Semadoh are living in fear that the roof may come crashing down on their heads.

This rural primary school of 101 students and 16 teachers located about three hours’ drive from Lawas, has long been in need of funds to repair crumbling buildings and infrastructure as well as construct new staff quarters.

The school’s dire straits was first highlighted to state media in September last year when Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian expressed disappointment over the Malaysian Education Blueprint (MEB) 2013-2025 claiming that it marginalised rural schools in the state.

The Borneo Post also learnt that since then, Lawas MP Datuk Henry Sum Agong as well as various state and federal figures representing various government agencies have also visited the school.

However, until now, almost one year later, no visible progress has been made despite initial promises to find funds and bring relief.

A close-up of the deteriorating beams and roof of the balcony walkway connecting the school hall and kitchen.
Covered walkways connecting the various buildings are propped up using large stones and pieces of wood.
The unfinished staff quarters.

“The school has been asking for funds to replace these buildings for many years but was told there was no allocation,” said teacher Sophia Pengiran, when met at the school recently.

“Since I joined the school 11 years ago, the school has gone through five headmasters but the situation remained unchanged until (present headmaster) Cikgu Jonathan (Labo). He felt that he could not stand by and let the students’ safety be compromised, so he took matters into his own hands and started to make changes where he could. Past administrators were uneasy to do any changes directly as it is frowned upon by the Education Department.” 
Some of the improvements which the headmaster has implemented included small scale fundraising and volunteer projects involving parents and well wishers to carry out repair work, and getting various villages to adopt classrooms to carry out minor improvements such as painting the walls.

However, despite the school’s best efforts to make the best of their situation, the extensive construction and renovations necessary to make the school safe again will require a lot more funds and resources than what it currently has at hand.

The school’s security guard takes a closer look at the crumbling supports beneath the school hall.
A close-up of the ad-hoc supports for the covered walkways.

The school hall is the worst off. Several of its cement supports are crumbling and can no longer support the building on their own.

A number are worn right down to their metal skeletons and are in danger of giving way.

Tree trunks and wooden beams propped on top of large stones have been used to provide additional support but these are at best, temporary measures to stop the hall from collapsing.

Due to safety concerns, only a limited number of people are allowed in the hall at any one time, meaning that students and staff are forced to conduct school activities elsewhere.

Water tanks next to the school hall are also left empty incase their cement supports should also topple over and hit the hall causing it to collapse.

The wooden walkway outside the hall which connects it to the kitchen is also in need of repair, as are the leaking roofs of the hall and kitchen.

Covered walkways between buildings have to be supported with additional beams to prevent the roof and pillars from collapsing.

It is ironic that a traditional longhouse staircase hewn out of a single log leading up to the administrative block was made out of necessity as a creative solution, rather than for show, to replace a set of old wobbly wooden stairs.

“This had to be done for the students and staff safety,” said Sophia.

The school is also facing a shortage of staff quarters, forcing some like school clerk Regina Buaya to pay out of her own pocket for accommodation.

“Currently, I have to rent a small house for RM200 per month. For those who are from this area, it is at least not so bad as they have their own homes,” she said.

The headmaster himself is forced to stay in an abandoned Kemas building nearby which itself is in need of repair, Regina added.

The school’s Parents-Teacher Association (PIBG) had initiated a new building for additional staff quarters but could not get beyond constructing the basic frame support and roof due to lack of funds and resources.

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