KUCHING: Education ecosystem, especially in rural areas, is still far behind in Sarawak due to lack of serious commitment from the federal government but all issues facing rural schools must be solved simultaneously and hollistically because every component is important to provide a decent learning and teaching environment for the children’s development.
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin said in this modern era, Sarawak still has many schools that do not have basic amenities such as electricity and treated water supplies as well as road accessibility, let alone Internet connectivity.
This is our main challenge for the next five years. Hopefully, we can overcome them. We cannot wait too long, he told a press conference after delivering his winding-up speech yesterday.
Assistant Minister of Education and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee and the ministry’s permanent secretary Datu Sudarsono Osman were also present.
Education has been under the federal government all these years. Not all education ministers have visited these schools. Those who did, would probably ‘shed tears’ after seeing the condition of the schools but after they returned, they forgot about it, he said.
Hence, the setting up Sarawak Education Ministry was essential because political will was critical in pursuing and finding solutions to the education challenges faced in Sarawak.
There are differences between the Education Ministry and a department as the director and deputy cannot meet the ministry’s secretary general directly, let alone meet the minister. Although I don’t have the power, I, as the Education Minister can meet the (federal) minister, which I have done but the director cannot do that, he said.
Looking at how poor rural schools are performing based on the academic results, Manyin said the Education Department has been tasked to examine the possible cause following the establishment of the ministry, which then led to dilapidated schools being listed as a major concern.
So we presented the details including photos to the (then) deputy prime minister and minister of education. The then DPM then asked how much was required and I told him the figure could be up to RM4 billion. He stopped to ponder if they had the money or not.
After presenting this to the National Economic Council, we were given RM1 billion but that was not enough as the special fund was actually meant to address the 415 critically dilapidated schools.
There are 1,020 out of 1,454 schools in Sarawak in dilapidated condition, of which, 415 are categorised as critically dilapidated while 205 of the 415 dilapidated schools have been approved for rebuilding or upgrading under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP).
The remaining 210 critically dilapidated schools were to be rebuilt with the special funding of RM1 billion over a period of two years that was approved during the 2018 BudgetRM500 million for 2018 and RM500 million for 2019.
Manyin also said the ministry was embarking on a new initiative to get direct participation of parents through parent-teacher associations (PTAs) in all schools to help improve academic results of the children instead of just criticising.
He told the august House earlier that there are 428 schools in Sarawak still without treated water supply, and were still depending on various water sources such as rainwater harvest, gravity feed, tube well and water from rivers.
The quality of water supply is questionable and unreliable. The Sarawak Education Department has submitted a proposal in 2016 to the Education Ministry for 62 schools that are located within 1km of the main water pipe to be connected, involving cost of about RM9.2 million.
Already approved by the MoF on June 1, 2018 was RM2.3 million, and the Sarawak Education Department is still waiting for a warrant.
On road accessibility to schools, Manyin said 721 schools do not have proper road access; 200 of which are accessible only by rivers or sea, and the rest (521 schools) do not enjoy all-weather road access.
That’s nearly half of the schools. This does not only affect students’ attendance in schools, especially during unfavourable weather condition, but also affect teachers who have to commute daily to schools.
The commitment and morale of teachers serving in these schools are affected because the envirnment in such schools are not up to expectation, he added.
He said these are among reasons why teachers in those schools were frequently requesting for a transfer.
All these disruptions have impact on students’ overall performance. Furthermore, staff and students commuting to schools using rivers are constantly exposed to dangers.
Our proposal to merge low enrolment schools into several clusters with all-weather road access and all the necessary facilities, including boarding, would help alleviate this situation, he added
Source: SARAWAK GOVERNMENT