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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Feb 22: A special committee, comprising representatives from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and the Sarawak government, will be set up to work out a plan to use the RM1 billion loan repayment for critical and dilapidated schools in Sarawak.
Assistant Minister of Education and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee shared that the special committee would be formed in due time to look into and make decisions on the utilisation and distribution of the money.
“We need to wait for the committee to be (officially) formed before meeting to deal and decide on the kind of works to be carried out, selection of schools and other details of the projects, including timeline,” he told DayakDaily today.
As for the selection of schools, he added: “The priority will be given to schools that have flooding issues, those with low enrolment of students and would be merged, and those critically dilapidated.”
Dr Annuar emphasised that the focus was to ensure a well-coordinated effort towards providing students and teachers with conducive and safe teaching and learning environment.
Hence, he urged all quarters to stop squabbling over the dilapidated schools’ issue and instead start working to ensure that the allocation would be used to benefit the 436,000 students across the state.
On Wednesday, the federal cabinet approved Sarawak government’s RM1 billion debt with the federal government to be used to upgrade and improve dilapidated schools in the state.
The decision was achieved following a meeting between Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here.
At the implementation stage, the Sarawak Public Works Department (JKR) will act as the implementing agency.
Dr Annuar commended the state government for adopting the contra payment method to address the issue of dilapidated schools.
“This is a clever method suggested by the chief minister as it guarantees that the money paid by Sarawak is returned in full to the state,” he said while congratulating Abang Johari on the brilliant result.
“We are thankful to the federal government for accepting this agreement,” he added.
Acknowledging that the federal government also took the dilapidated schools issue seriously, he reiterated that the state government was ever ready to work closely with the federal government on education matter.
Sarawak has about RM2.5 billion in outstanding loan with the federal government as of December 2018, and with the contra payment, the outstanding balance should be about RM1.4 billion.
In fact, Sarawak had offered to loan RM1 billion to the then Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government to fix dilapidated schools in the state last year. However, the loan offer was rejected by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government.
The state government had also suggested two years ago for it to use its outstanding loan to fix dilapidated schools or build new ones instead of repaying the federal government.
According to Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong, there are 1,020 dilapidated schools in the state, of which 415 are considered critically dilapidated.
He also revealed that 371 schools did not have electricity supply and were fully dependent on generator sets, while 428 schools lacked treated water supply.
Moreover, there were 721 schools without proper road access, including 200 that were only accessible by river or sea. — DayakDaily