Dilapidated schools issue: Sarawak welcomes Maszlee’s announcement

File photo for illustration purposes. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

KUCHING, Dec 5: The state Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research (MESTR) has welcomed the Minister of Education’s statement to resolve the dilapidated schools issue in Sarawak.

MESTR said since education is under the purview and responsibility of the federal government and with the commitment of the federal minister, Sarawak could now hope for more fund allocations to upgrade or rebuild the dilapidated schools.

“In fact, during the tabling of Budget 2018, RM1 billion has been budgeted for such a purpose, to be allocated RM500 million in 2018 and 2019 respectively. We hope the federal government will honour the budget for 2019,” MESTR said in response in a statement yesterday to the statement made by Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik, which was reported in a local English daily on Monday.

MESTR reiterated that there are 1,020 dilapidated schools in Sarawak, and in the DS3 category, there are 415 or them. They are 100 per cent wooden and more than 50 years old. All or part of the schools have been certified as unsafe by the Public Works Department (JKR).

In the DS2 category, there 210 schools. They are described as 75 per cent wooden structures, are between 40 and 50 years old, and have major structural problems.

In the DS1 category, there are 395 schools. They are 50 per cent wooden structures, are between 30 and 40 years old, and have been identified to have minimum structural problems.

MESTR said that in addition, there are 216 schools that are sited along riverbanks and are subjected to regular flooding.

“Not only does this pose safety issues but also perennial damage to school assets. The long-term solution for these schools is to relocate them to higher grounds.

“Therefore, a large sum of funds is actually required if we are to resolve the issue of dilapidated schools and schools that are affected by floods in order to provide a safe and conducive teaching and learning environment for our students and teachers,” it said.

Sarawak has placed its trust in the federal government to discharge their responsibility on education matters, but the physical conditions of its schools have not been given due attention.

“Year by year, the condition of schools, especially those in rural areas, worsens. The minister has compared the present situation of our two schools with schools in his home village in Johor in the 1970s, where much has changed in his village over the past 40 years, but to see the deplorable conditions of schools in Sarawak makes him sad. This shows that while schools in Semenanjung have been well taken care of, the same cannot be said for schools in Sarawak.

“Therefore, much needs to be done to improve our school environment and the quality of education. The future of young Sarawakians cannot be jeopardised. It is for this reason and the realisation that the state has to intervene in matters of education that the state, under the new leadership, established its own Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research.”

MESTR also clarified that the implementation procedure for school development projects is that all matters relating to education, including project development and or maintenance of schools, are directly handled by the Ministry of Education.

It added that all decisions, including the scope and design of the projects and the appointment of contractors, are handled by the federal authorities. However, only a small number of school projects were assigned to JKR Sarawak for implementation, and these schools were completed by JKR Sarawak satisfactorily.

“A good example is the 116 school upgrading projects that were awarded in 2018. Fifty schools were assigned to be implemented by JKR Sarawak while 66 schools were implemented directly by the Ministry of Education. All the 50 schools under the responsibility of JKR Sarawak were successfully completed on time while the 66 schools under Ministry of Education encountered many problems and were not completed on time,” revealed MESTR.

MESTR added that federal projects in Sarawak are best implemented by state agencies to ensure timely delivery of projects.

“We hope that the federal government will consider channeling approved development funds to the state for implementation by relevant state agencies,” said MESTR. — DayakDaily