Dispute over merger of schools in Sarawak shouldn’t delay repairs, says Baru

Works Minister Baru Bian says the repairs of dilapidated schools should go on.

KUCHING: Works Minister Baru Bian says disagreement over the Sarawak education department’s proposal to merge some of the primary schools in the state should not cause a delay in the repair of dilapidated schools in the state.

“I don’t think it should be a reason to delay repairs of dilapidated schools in Sarawak,” he said in a press conference here today.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a statement that the delay in fixing the dilapidated schools in Sarawak was due to the disagreement over the proposal to close and merge some primary schools in the state.

The delays affected 16 out of the 37 schools which were supposed to be repaired by utilising the first package of RM350 million paid by the Sarawak government last August as part of its RM1 billion loan repayment to Putrajaya.

“The tender implementation for work on the 16 schools has been delayed to enable the ministry of education and the Sarawak Public Works Department to review the scope and cost of implementation of these projects. It is expected that these projects will be tendered by March this year,” said Lim.

However, Baru said the repairs of dilapidated schools should go on, particularly for those not affected by the merger proposal.

“The implementation (to repair the dilapidated schools in Sarawak) must be done within a reasonable time.”

The issue of dilapidated schools in the state had been around even before the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government took over Putrajaya, he said, adding that the Cabinet was concerned over the matter and would try to resolve it.

“In fact, in the past, I had also raised this issue in the state legislative assembly,” he said.

On the disagreement over the state education department’s proposal to merge some of the rural primary schools in Sarawak, Baru said merging the schools could pose a “big problem” for the pupils.

“We must take into account the travelling time and the fact that the pupils will have to move to the boarding schools. Most of the schools with low enrolment are located far in the interior.

“In principle, we disagree with the proposal unless it is very necessary to do so and it must be done with proper engagement with the parents of the affected pupils,” he said.