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Sarawak to repair schools on its own, then bill Putrajaya

 | September 2, 2017

Deputy Chief Minister James Masing says state government has no choice as it 'cannot afford to wait for the federal funds to solve this problem'.

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PETALING JAYA: The Sarawak government has decided to “take the bull by the horns” by repairing its dilapidated school buildings and improving the facilities therein, and then claiming the funds for such work from the federal government later.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing told The Borneo Post recently that the state had decided to take such measures after the federal education ministry reported that abject facilities, poor living conditions in boarding schools and de-motivated teachers were reasons for the overall poor performance of rural schools in the state.

“We are aware of the reasons given by the federal ministry and are concerned that the situation has dragged on for so long. So, we have decided to take a proactive approach in tackling the problem.

“We will ‘take the bull by its horns’ in solving the poor overall standard of education in the state by using state funds to repair the dilapidated schools and improve the facilities in schools,” he was quoted as saying by the Sarawak-based daily.

Masing, who is also the chairman of the state cabinet council on rural schools, pointed out that science subjects are especially difficult to teach in many schools, many of which do not even have any science laboratory.

“We will build and repair the schools using the state funds first and bill the federal government later. We cannot afford to wait for the federal funds to solve this problem,” Masing said, according to Borneo Post.

Asked about the source of the funds to help repair the schools and improve facilities, Masing said it would be taken from the massive increase to the state’s revenue since the state government increased the timber tax from 80 sen per tonne to RM50 per cubic metre two months ago.

Sarawak had increased the tax payment for hill timber from 80 sen to RM50 per cubic metre on July 1. The previous rate had been in place for more than three decades.

The Sarawak government expects its revenue from timber tax to increase to about RM200-300 million per annum compared with the RM15 million per annum previously.

On the issue of teachers – most of whom were from Peninsular Malaysia – who find it difficult to adapt to conditions in rural schools, Masing said it was a more complex issue.

“It is a fact that we do not have enough teachers from Sarawak to teach in our schools. The reason is that there are just not enough trainee teachers from the state.

“I used to think that there was discrimination against Sarawakians who applied to enter teachers training colleges but (now) I have to accept the ‘bitter truth’ – that we do not have enough applicants who are qualified to enter the teachers college,” Masing was quoted as saying.

He added that the state could only produce more teachers by improving the facilities in schools across the state in order to help raise the standard of education.


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