Daily Express
Established since 1963
No school for 1,000 in Kundasang

Published on: Friday, January 03, 2014

Kundasang: About 1,000 students of SMK Kundasang were not able to attend school when it reopened Thursday as a Sabah Education Department promise of building a new school was apparently not kept.

The students had nowhere to return to for their studies as their old school site was too dangerous and unstable while the construction of the new school, which was promised to be completed by March this year, shows no sign of starting.

Due to the problems faced, the students are now on an extended 'holiday' due to the unfinished school in Mesilou and a non-conducive studying environment.

The school's PTA has decided to send a letter to the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in order to request his involvement in the matter.

Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) Chairman, Japiril Suhaimin, said the school moved to a temporary site while waiting for the completion of the new school.

"In early 2013, both teachers and students moved to the old site of SMK Agama Ranau so as to allow the construction of the new school in Kampung Mesilou.

"We moved after safety investigations of the original school site saw that the building structure and site itself were unstable.

During this time, the students suffered on many different levels.

They had to endure dilapidated classroom conditions, no electricity, no windows, no proper toilets and the school had regular problems with muddy floods, he said.

He also said that many students have stopped coming to school, as it is too much of a hassle. The students have to wake up at 4am in order to prepare themselves for school and make their way to a bus provided by the Education Ministry.

"The bus leaves any student who come later than 6.30am in order to make it to school on time. The distance between their homes and the temporary school is about 20km with unsatisfactory roads. This is not only unsafe for the students but also the bus drivers and teachers.

"Also, the cost of transport, which is shouldered by the Ministry, had reached RM1 million. If used properly, these funds could be directed into the restoration of the original school site," he told Daily Express.

Parents of the students are willing and ready to move back to the original school site and even conduct gotong-royong activities in order the school for the students, he said.

"The parents are sympathetic to the students who are eager to learn and students are worried that they might be left behind by order schools," he said.

When contacted, State Education Director Datuk Jame Alip said: "To my understanding, the school has not been built because its construction is being handled by the Works Ministry.

Apart from that, we are trying to make the temporary site more conducive for the students and teachers. We will work non-stop so as to ready the classrooms by next Monday.

"Also, if there are any other schools experiencing any sort of problem, do not hesitate to contact the department. If we do not take care of our future, who will?" he said.

In PAPAR, immigrant children were found to be outnumbering local pupils in SK Pekan Kinarut - about 60 per cent of about 260 pupils who registered for Primary One were offspring of migrants.

Many local parents were forced to put their children in schools elsewhere.

The school's headmaster, Sung Diana, said the school does not discriminate against immigrant children because all children have the basic rights to education.

"Of course, we could not accommodate everybody.

But they (immigrants) are very persistent. They will come again and again to plead their case if we rejected their applications.

"We have to take pity on them because they too want their children to be able to read and write. We cannot deny this privilege to them.

After all, that it our national education policy," he said.

The school, which was established in 1937, is within walking distance from the Filipino Refugee Resettlement Scheme and had been enrolling immigrant children in its register since their influx in the 1970s.

The town has four primary schools including one Chinese school.

The other primary national schools are SK Tampasak and SK Mook.

The only secondary school is SMK Kinarut, also within walking distance from the settlement in Kg Laut.

Most of the local pupils enrolled in Primary One in SK Pekan Kinarut this year went to the school's kindergarten, which is also within its compound.

Others went to Kemas kindergarten in their respective villages.

"The immigrant children would undergo pre-school in their settlement.

Usually, these were set up and run by private individuals or NGOs," said the school's student affairs teacher Rosly Mohd Jasri.

Rosly added that the school is already overcrowded but the administration is working hard to accommodate everybody.

"Currently, we have six classes for each level. And for each of the levels, two classes would consist of local students and three classes of immigrant children. The other class is a mix of local and immigrant pupils," he said.

An average class would consist of between 40 and 50 pupils each.

The school has two schooling sessions; the morning session for Primary Four to Six and the afternoon session for Primary One to Three.

Last year, the school's UPSR passing rate increased by 1.87 per cent to 32.37 per cent compared to the previous year's 31.27 per cent.

Three of its pupils scored 5A's compared to 2012 where only two pupils scored 5A's. A total of 241 pupils in the school sat for the exam in 2013 with one absentee due to illness.

Meanwhile, in Kinarut's only Chinese primary school, SJKC Kin Kiau, about 70 pupils were registered for this year's Primary One.

The school's student affairs officer said of these pupils, less than five pupils are Chinese.

"Most of our students are bumiputera, mainly Kadazandusun and Malays," she said, adding that only one student scored 5A's in last year's UPSR examination.

A total of 40,290 pupils are expected to be registered to enter Primary One Statewide this year.

The number is an increase of 3,253 compared to last year where only 37,037 pupils were enrolled.