KOTA KINABALU: The education ministry estimates that Sabah needs more than RM3 billion to repair 587 dilapidated schools.
This includes 91 schools which have been condemned as unsafe in the state.
As such, the government’s plan to provide free education for all citizens up to the university level would have to be deferred until the nation’s financial situation allows it, says its minister Maszlee Malik.
Speaking at a town hall session at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) here today, Maszlee urged for patience as the government is focusing its efforts on repairing all dilapidated schools first.
“Millions of ringgit have been spent to repair and upgrade dilapidated schools in Sabah but the implementation is far from perfect.
“We need to be responsible and get out priorities right. We want to do it as best as we can but it is easier said than done.”
Maszlee said the government is facing several issues and, as a result, was forced to spend time and resources to counter these attacks.
These included racial and religious issues which he said were intentionally played up to derail the government’s plans for the country.
On the issue of education for stateless children, Maszlee explained that the ministry’s policy to allow “undocumented” children to be enrolled in schools does not include illegal immigrants.
“The policy is limited only to children whose one or both parents are Malaysians but, for some reason, their parents did not register their births,” he said.
Since the implementation of the policy, schools nationwide have enrolled 2,636 undocumented children, with Sabah recording the highest number with 1,184 students.
He said the ministry, through the schools, will be helping these children sort out their documents.
Maszlee said there have been several requests from non-citizens for their children to be enrolled in public schools.
He said the government was cooperating with NGOs to provide education to these children through the setting up of learning centres, primarily in plantation areas.