Sarawak wants additional RM1b for schools

Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin (seated, left) at the Sarawak Headmasters’ Conference in Kuching March 19, 2018. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, March 19 — Sarawak will be asking for at least another RM1 billion from the federal government to repair dilapidated schools and to build new ones, a state minister said today ahead of the 14th general elections (GE14).

Sarawak Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin said he came to the conclusion after making assessments of schools, which have been categorised as dilapidated and critically dilapidated, during his recent statewide tour.

“The RM1 billion sum announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his Budget 2018 speech last year is certainly not enough to repair dilapidated schools or build new ones,” he said at the opening of a three-day Sarawak headmasters’ conference here.

He believed that the bad conditions of schools, especially those in the rural areas, was one of the factors contributing to students’ poor performance in public examinations.

“With a total of 1,454 schools in Sarawak, 70.2 per cent or 1,020 are categorised as dilapidated, and out of this number, 415 are critically dilapidated and they require urgent action from the government,” he said.

Manyin recalled that in his recent visit to one of the primary schools in Selangau in Sibu Division, he almost fell to the ground after one of the planks on the school verandah broke under his weight.

“Luckily for me, I was not injured, but otherwise shaken,” he said, telling conference participants how serious the conditions of rural schools in the state were.

“It is important to resolve our dilapidated schools as every student and teacher deserve to be studying and teaching in conducive and safe environment,” he said.

He added that a safe environment could help improve education quality.

Manyin said he has been directed by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg to improve the overall performances of students in Science, Technology, English and Mathematics (STEM).

He said students’ performances in Science and Mathematics in UPSR and SPM has been within the “C” grade, which he described as mediocre.

“Therefore, relevant programmes on STEM are important if we are to improve our students’ performances,” he said.

Manyin said the state government was also unhappy with the students’ UPSR and SPM results, placing Sarawak consistently in the bottom two in terms of overall performance among the 16 states and federal territories.

“We must move Sarawak out of the bottom two to a higher level, possibly among the top 10 performers over the next few years,” he said.