Dire situation: 1,020 derelict schools in state

File pic shows SK Semban, once a primary school deep in the rural jungles of Padawan. It would take about 5 hours of jungle trekking from the foot of Bengoh Dam to reach this village. There was no other mode of transportation to reach this school except on foot. However, the school has since been relocated. All the students and teachers have moved to a centralised school in Padawan bazaar.

KUCHING: There are 1,454 schools in Sarawak, of which 1,020 are dilapidated, 415 in critical condition and 651 under-enrolled.

Sarawak Education Department and the state Education, Science and Technological Research Ministry revealed that of the 651 under-enrolled schools, the majority are in the rural areas and some of them have less than 10 students.

Therefore, building centralised schools to replace dilapidated ones with low enrolment will provide affected students with better facilities and spur academic performance.

State Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong said since repairing all the dilapidated schools, which constituted 70 per cent of all schools in the state will be too costly and a financial constraint which cannot be done immediately because the federal government is unable to help as fast as the state wants it to.

So one of the solutions is to replace or merge the critical condition schools into centralised schools.

“Many parents think that low enrolment is good as it allows the teachers to concentrate more on the students. This is applicable in developed countries, but not in Malaysia. In developed countries, their low enrolment schools have a good environment with literally no discipline problem.

“In Sarawak, due to lack of resources, lack of teachers and in such dilapidated conditions, it becomes a totally different environment. This perception is wrong because schools with low numbers of students will not be provided with better facilities and services,” Manyin said after a meeting over the proposed consolidation of schools with low enrolment here today.

Students studying at under-enrolled schools are usually deprived of specialist teachers, so existing teachers are asked to teach subjects they are not qualified in.

He stressed that such teachers should not be blamed if students did not have an interest in certain subjects, such as Mathematics, right from the beginning.

“When you have these type of schools, you cannot improve the results because these schools will never get specialist teachers teaching specific subjects. That is why a lot of rural students are poor in subjects because their interest in education has been killed at the primary (school) level.”

The next step is to convince all the state elected representatives and parents on the need to merge the schools for the benefit of their children’s education.

Acknowledging that it will be a difficult task to accomplish, Manyin said the decision to merge under-enrolled schools has to be made with the consent of the parents of the students involved.

The state Education Department, elected representatives and community leaders will discuss this further with parents of the students.

“We have to talk to the elected representatives and particularly the parents. Because for parents, they have this pride and sentimental value for the school in their village and a lot of them do not want their children to be away from them.”