KUCHING, Dec 6: Minister for Education, Science, and Technological Research (MESTR) Dato Sri Michael Manyin has refuted Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii’s allegation that the former has been lying about not getting any reply from the federal Ministry of Education (MOE) since June 2018 regarding projects to connect rural schools to electricity and water supplies.
Describing Dr Yii’s allegation as baseless, malicious and done to seek cheap publicity, Manyin said: “I have categorically informed the media during a press conference on Nov 13 at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Building that the federal MOE has responded to my letter on Oct 24 seeking clarification on whether the state’s offer was a grant in which I have replied on Oct 30.
“What I highlighted during the press conference was that my ministry has yet to receive consent from MOE for the state to implement the projects which was true at that instant in time,” he clarified in a press statement issued today.
The projects Manyin referred to were to connect 113 schools to the state electricity grid so that these schools can have 24-hour electricity supply and to connect 33 schools to the water main pipe so that they can have access to treated water supply.
To safeguard the welfare and well-being of both students and teachers in these schools, he reiterated that the Sarawak government has offered to implement these projects at a total cost of RM59 million using its own funds, even though education is the responsibility of the federal government.
Additionally, he revealed that the ministry has just received another letter from the Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik dated Nov 29, 2018 explaining that the state’s proposal can only be implemented after issues related to existing contracts have been resolved.
“Our implementing agencies will meet with MOE officers to work out the details,” he added.
Manyin also hit back at the opposition for accusing of him of sensationalising the issue and blaming Pakatan Harapan (PH) government over the dilapidated schools issue in Sarawak, saying they blatantly distorted the facts with ill-intent.
“Dr Yii and other opposition leaders have further accused me of highlighting the issue of dilapidated schools and lack of amenities as if the problem is something that happened over the last six months and thus blaming the PH government for it,” he elaborated.
Since the establishment of MESTR in May 2017, Manyin emphasised that he had spoken publicly and boldly about the conditions of schools in Sarawak, the plight of young school children and appealed to the then federal government for larger allocations to solve the problems.
“In many of these statements and speeches, I made it very clear that the main factor contributing to these problems is the lack of funding allocation from the previous government,” he said.
“The physical needs of our schools have not received the due consideration and unless special allocations are made, the situation will only worsen. Anyone who has followed my speeches since June last year will know that the allegation by Dr Yii is not true,” he added.
Manyin reiterated that as a result of the efforts of the Sarawak government, the former federal government allocated a sum of RM1 billion — RM500 million to be spent in 2018 and another RM500 million in 2019 — to address the problems of dilapidated schools in Sarawak.
While a total of 116 schools have been upgraded at a cost RM419 million this year, he hopes that the PH government will honour this commitment and make available the RM500 million for 2019.
He advised the opposition to not not just look at the urban schools to understand the problem as Sarawak, with a land mass of about 124,500 square kilometres, is not just made of urban centres such as Kuching, Sibu and Miri but rural areas make up more than 70 per cent.
“Most PH MPs from Sarawak who are mostly from urban constituencies need go to rural areas to see the school conditions for themselves. We cannot understand the problem on the ground if we remain as ‘armchair politicians’. The conditions of many schools in rural areas are really deplorable,” he said of the reality which Maszlee himself has also acknowledged.
“So there really is nothing to sensationalise about. I hope that all elected representatives including those from PH will realise the real condition and support the effort of both MOE and MESTR to create a more conducive environment for our students to study,” he urged.
Agreeing that education should not be politicised, Manyin said the ministry welcomes the support from all parties to improve the education eco-system in Sarawak.
“I therefore, urge all MPs from Sarawak to also continue their efforts to facilitate in expediting matters that needed urgent attention from the MOE,” he concluded. — DayakDaily