RM1,600 for teachers to travel to SK Lusong Laku

By D’Drift Team

BINTULU, July 3: Teachers of SK Lusong Laku who have no four-wheel drives (4WDs) of their own need to spend RM1,600 to charter one to reach the school.

Apart from 4WD, the only vehicle model that can reach Lusong Laku, surprisingly, is the Kancil, according to Dennis Lani, the deputy headman of Rumah Buli, Sungai Kelabai, Tubau.

“Somehow, due to its small size, Kancil can make it all the way from Bintulu to Lusong Laku. Other vehicles just can’t make it due to the bad condition of the road,” Dennis told D’Drift.

SK Lusong Laku is a school converted from a timber camp.

From Bintulu to the school which started operation in 1987, it is a long distance of 275 km. The first 230 km covers a reasonably good tar-sealed road with only certain stretches with gigantic potholes. Otherwise, it is smooth sailing along the whole way.

The rest of the distance of 34 km from Tegulang to Lusong Laku is the part that is almost “impassable” to inexperienced city dwellers though to experienced 4WD off-road fans like Dennis, the road has now been tremendously improved and at its present state, it is considered “good”.

Headmaster of the school Jimmie Jonical Bilong, explained that the exorbitant charter fee was due to the fact that those offering the service are charging the rate of to and fro as the drivers did not expect to be able to pick up any other customers from the school back to Bintulu.

SK Lusong Laku headmaster Jimmie Jonical Bilong.

Due to the high cost of transportation and the notoriously treacherous 34 km stretch, the 13 teachers and eight school staff prefer to stay in the school over the weekends during school terms.

There are presently 156 Penan students in the school, including 25 preschool children. The students are from the surrounding four Penan villages consisting of more than 500 Penan residents.

It is a blessing to serve in a school which is right beside Lusong Laku Waterfall but the lack of school facilities and hardware of  has been an obstacle any new teacher will have to deal with.

SK Lusong Laku came into being in 1987 and many of its building blocks are old and cracking.

“There is no internet line here at all. The best we get is only WhatsApp and even so, the messages take hours to reach or for documents to be downloaded. So during the MCO (Movement Control Order), we can’t offer any online lessons. And even though we are in the green zone, we still have to abide by the directives set by the Education Ministry of closing the school,” Jimmie told D’Drift Team yesterday.

Apart from the lack of internet access, there is no treated water, leaving the whole school reliant on gravity feed and a water pump. In terms of electricity, the school, like many rural schools, depends on a generator set for electricity.

“We used to have two generator sets but now there is only one that is operational. With only one generator, we can only have electricity for 12 hours where, by right, we should have electricity for two generators to provide electricity for 24 hours to allow full operation of school.”

SK Lusong Laku is situated right beside Lusong Laku Waterfall.

The school blocks themselves are also an issue on its own as, according to Jimmie, it was initially a timber camp which was later transformed into a school.

“So you can see our school blocks, they are already obsolete. Look at our classrooms, they were all converted from living quarters of the timber people. Our school was built by timber company not the Education Ministry and so our school looks like a timber camp.”

For Jimmie, the school needs proper school blocks; school facilities such as proper library, computer rooms and others, as well as basic facilities such as treated water and electricity.

“We may be far away from the town centre but as long as we have internet line, our students will not be left behind. So we hope the government can build a telecommunication here as soon as possible, so that we can be connected to the world and will not be left behind.”—DayakDaily