Many aided Chinese primary schools in rural areas suffer from low enrolment

A file photo of a class in session before the beginning of the pandemic.

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KUCHING: Many of the aided Chinese primary schools in rural areas of Sarawak are schools with low student enrolment with as many as 130 of them having less than 150 students.

Among the 130 schools with low enrolment, 26 of them are have 30 students or less.

Most of these schools, according to Sarawak United Association of Chinese Primary Aided Schools Board of Management president Datuk Pau Chiong Ung, are located in the central region namely in Sibu, Kanowit, Bintangor and Sarikei.

In face of the introduction of the new policy of centralising schools with low enrolment, Pau said the board would have to hold meetings in various districts before any decision could be made.

He said the board welcomed the new state government policy announced by Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Dato Sri Michael Manyin to centralise schools with low enrolment.

Sarawak United Association of Chinese Primary Aided Schools Board of Management president Datuk Pau Chiong Ung.

“Prior to this, when we want to relocate our schools with low enrolment, we have to raise our own funds and find our own land. Now, the government is willing to step in to help us.

“Furthermore, Dato Sri Michael Manyin had made it clear that they would not force the new policy on us. So to us, the new policy is to our advantage and we appreciate that,” Pau told DayakDaily today.

He said even before the government looked into this problem, the board has relocated some low intake schools to ensure their survival.

Citing the example of the relocation of SJK Kai Ming from Bintangor to Bintulu, he said before the school was relocated, there were only six students in the whole school.

“Now after relocating to Bintulu, records show that the school will have 250 students next year,” said Pau.

He said Manyin also made it clear that if there was only one aided Chinese primary school within a certain radius, even though the enrolment of that school is low, the government would also not force the school to relocate as that would deprive the children in that area of Chinese primary education.

“For example, we have a Chinese primary school in Long Lama where the student number is below 50. But it is the only Chinese primary school in the area. No matter how, that school will not be closed or relocated, of which Dato Sri shared the same view,” he said.

Pau said the stance of the board was that for any school to be relocated or centralised, both the management board of the affected school and the parents of the students must be consulted and that both agreed to do so.

“Other conditions we would like to stress is that the nature of Chinese education must be maintained after centralisation or relocation and that the school board continues to be in control.

“It is also our stance that in the implementation of centralising schools with low enrolment, the number of Chinese schools in the state will not be reduced.

“For any relocation to happen, it must be the case where the school to be relocated must be moved to a well-populated areas where Chinese primary education is needed and the school will continue to thrive,” said Pau.