Sarawak Gov’t says no to Sekolah Indonesia

FATIMAH,SARAWAK

KUCHING: The Sarawak Government has made a distinction, based on advice from the Education Department, between schools run in the country for the expatriate community and “temporary education institutions” – known as Community Learning Centres (CLC) – for the children of foreign labour, like in the plantations for example, who come and go.

In short, there will be no Sekolah Indonesia in Sarawak as presently proposed for the children in the plantations. The CLC concept comes in the wake of an agreement forged between the Indonesian and Malaysian Governments, on the initiative of President Joko Widodo, to extend basic education to children of Indonesian workers in the oil palm plantations in Sabah and Sarawak.

Sarawak Education Minister Fatimah Abdullah, who is also Welfare, Women and Community Development Minister, has announced the guidelines for these CLCs. “Amendments have been made to ensure accountability, management and supervision of CLCs,’ said Fatimah. “These CLCs must teach Bahasa Malaysia, History, Islamic Studies or Moral Studies.”

She was disclosing details of a meeting held on the CLCs on Wednesday at her Ministry with the Federal Ministry of Education, the Sarawak Education, Immigration and Labour Departments.

Her Ministry, disclosed Fatimah, will explain the CLC concept at Ladang 3 Sarawak Plantations on January 20 for all 16 managements of participating plantations. “It’s not compulsory for the managements of plantations to set up the CLCs.”

“We are doing this on our own initiative.”

She conceded that the CLCs were not proper schools but “temporary education institutions”.

She stressed that “all children deserve access to basic education and learning. The CLC is an interim measure to provide basic education and facilities for children of foreign labour with valid permits and visa and employed in plantations in Sarawak”.

Delving into figures, Fatimah said that at present there were 767 Indonesian children already attending CLCs set up throughout the state. “There are also local children attending these schools but as far as possible we want these children to attend public schools. Children of Malaysians working in the plantations are not allowed to attend the CLCs.”

According to the guidelines for the CLCs, only the management of plantations can apply to set up such facilities, the headmasters can be foreign but must be paid by their governments and likewise for foreign teachers but both must be subject to approval by the Malaysian Government. If local teachers are employed, the managements of the plantations concerned must pay these staff.

Elsewhere, foreigners employed must pass medical examinations, and be screened by the police to ensure that they have no prior criminal records.

The Indonesia media has estimated that there are some 51,000 children of Indonesian parents in Sarawak alone and that as many as 30,000 of these may not have access to basic education facilities.