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Nobody surprised at defective schools in Sarawak report

Like the honourable state welfare, women and family development minister, I am not surprised at the Auditor-General’s Report on the ‘serious defects’ in more than a quarter of the schools in Sarawak. In fact, nobody in Sarawak is surprised.

I have visited all the 12 schools in my constituency and all but one are in serious disrepair. At every state assembly sitting I bring up this distressing problem but it appears that there is no real effort on the federal government’s part to address these problems.

Millions have been spent drawing up a fancy Education Blueprint for 2013-2025 which gave itself lofty ideals or ‘shifts’, one of which as ‘Ensure 100 percent of schools meet basic infrastructure requirements by 2015, starting with Sabah and Sarawak’ (page E-18).

The so called ‘Wave 1 (2013-2015) of the Plan has rolled away but the objective of that wave, ie ‘by 2013, critical repairs and upgrades will be completed across all 1,608 schools with critical needs’ seems to have fallen by the wayside. This repair and upgrade was to proceed in stages, starting with Sabah and Sarawak.

In February last year, the then-deputy prime minister promised an additional budget of RM1 billion for Sabah and Sarawak to rebuild dilapidated schools. The honourable state welfare, women and family development minister in a reply to a question from me during the April 2014 state assembly sitting said that the state government had approved 38 projects but was still waiting for funds from the federal government.

Yesterday she said we need RM422 million but the federal government only approved RM95 million, and that the allocation for us in the 2016 will not be enough.

This sorry state of affairs goes to show that the federal government does not really care about Sabah and Sarawak, except as a vote bank during the elections. If the ministers truly have a heart for our people, what is so difficult about handing over the money we need? The PM had no qualms about giving his department an increase to RM20.3 billion in the Budget for 2016 but cut funding for education. This shows the warped priority of the BN government.

The Education Blueprint shows that Sarawak is at the second last place in a comparison of performance across states for UPSR and SPM in 2011. This is not surprising either as our pupils do not have proper facilities and conducive environments to study and learn.

I do feel for Fatimah Abdullah as it must be very frustrating to be always begging for money from west Malaysia. I urge the chief minister who has, to his credit reminded west Malaysia of our rights under the Sarawak constitution to use English as an official language, to now reclaim our rights to education, together with an increased allocation that should come with it.

However, knowing the way the federal government has treated us for so long, the best bet will be to give the opposition a chance. In our 18-Point roadmap, we promise to allocate RM1 billion for school repairs and our promise will not just be empty promises, which Sarawakians are now tired of hearing.

BARU BIAN is PKR assemblyperson for Ba’ Kelalan.