OPINION: Fires in Sarawak's Rural Schools an Indicator of Malaysia's Rot

OPINION: Fires in Sarawak's Rural Schools an Indicator of Malaysia's Rot

What you need to know

'We can never claim to be a developed nation when we subject our schoolchildren to studying and living in damaged, decaying and derelict buildings.'

I was dismayed to read about yet another fire in a rural school, this time at SK Sungai Sugai, Pakan. Seven schools in seven months is too high a number, and is indicative of the neglect our rural schools have been subject to over the past few decades.

It appears that our schools are places of high fire risk. This is highly unacceptable – parents must be worried about sending their children to such places. It is lucky that so far no lives have been lost in these fires.

Schools that are well built, properly maintained and equipped with fire extinguishers are essential if we are to provide quality education for our children. Enough has been written about the shockingly dilapidated conditions of our schools.

Two years ago, Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Fatimah Abdullah was reported to have said that there were 800 schools in Sarawak that continued to be used despite being unfit for occupancy. I wonder whether the figures have improved or worsened.

What has happened with the ‘shifts’ of the Education Blueprint for 2013-2025, one of which was to ‘Ensure 100 percent of schools meet basic infrastructure requirements by 2015, starting with Sabah and Sarawak’? When will the Federal government take us seriously? Do we have to wait until lives are lost?

How galling it is for us to read about the RM2.6 billion (US$620 million) channelled into the bank account of Malaysian Official No 1, the RM114 million (and counting) Sabah Water Board scandal, the RM650 million to be spent on Taman Tugu in Kuala Lumpur, etc, when our schoolchildren do not even have proper schools in which to study?

The prime minister and deputy prime minister, as well as local BN politicians, made numerous promises before the Sarawak election in May this year, including the following for schools:

  • RM1 million (promised by the PM) for SK St Lawrence, Sri Aman
  • RM500,000 (by the DPM) for SM Riam
  • RM500,000 (by DPM) for SK Pujut Corner
  • RM500,000 (by DPM) for SM Pei Min
  • Unspecified (by PM) for SK Long Laput
  • Unspecified (by PM) for SMK Matu upgrade
  • RM300,000 (by PM) for SJK Chung Hua Bau
  • RM35 million (by PM) for SMK Long Semadoh
  • RM2 million (by Chief Minister Adenan Satem) for Riam Road Secondary School
  • RM500,000 (by Adenan Satem) for SJK Thai Kwang)

Perhaps Fatimah can enlighten us as to the status of these promises, and we hope they are not marked as ‘Empty’.

The PM had asked the people of Malaysia to contribute ideas for Budget 2017. He should make it a point to fulfill all past promises and ensure sufficient allocation to execute the fancy Education Blueprint plans before making more empty promises to the rakyat (the people). The federal government has to show us more respect and sincerity.

We can never claim to be a developed nation when we subject our schoolchildren to studying and living in damaged, decaying and derelict buildings. This is the ultimate betrayal of the people who entrust their future to us.

The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The piece was first published on Malaysiakini.

Edited by: Edward White


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