Manyin (middle, front row) gets ready for a photo-call with a delegation from Pertubuhan Penduduk Kampung Pichin led by chairman Raymond Achen (on his right) who came to the DUN yesterday to witness the proceedings of the sitting.
KUCHING: The construction of centralised schools, to merge government schools with low enrolment (SKMs), must begin next year to avoid any unwanted delays.
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong said the first centralised school will be constructed most probably in May. He also said for a start, the ministry would like to build at least one centralised school in every rural constituency upon agreement from the parents.
“Our target is we must start (constructing the centralised school) by probably May next year. A few projects to build the centralised schools are confirmed but we cannot reveal these to you yet.
“The RM1-billion allocation from the federal budget 2018 is for two years. If we don’t start, the money won’t be utilised. If money is not utilised, we have to return the money (to the federal government),” he told reporters on the sidelines of the State Legislative Assembly sitting yesterday.
He pointed out that the greatest hurdle now is to get parents to agree to the centralised schools, which would see government schools with low enrolment (SKMs) closed down and pupils moved to the new centralised schools. Because of this, he said the Education Department and the district education officers have been directed to hold dialogues with parent-teacher associations (PTAs) to brief the parents on the matter.
“We will probably get all their feedback the earliest by January next year. The response in some areas is quite tough due to matters such as sentimental value to the schools, but in certain areas it is a bit easy.
“We start with a model centralised school. Those who don’t agree, we will bring them there and let them see. Hopefully, they will agree later on, that is our strategy, but it is going to be tough,” he said.
Manyin also stressed that centralised schools is the only way for Sarawak to elevate its academic performance especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Our state is placed 15th out of 16 in Malaysia, which is worse than I initially thought. We want to move up in the ranking,” he said.
To a question, he said the move to build centralised schools will not affect Chinese schools and mission schools in the state. He said even though a meeting was held with boards of management of Chinese schools and mission schools on this matter, they have to give their consensus to join in the programme.
“The Chinese schools, for example, are scared of losing their licence. So I told them ‘if you close this school, you can transfer the licence to towns because a lot of those schools there are overcrowded’. We will not touch them for now,” he said.