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Sabah targets zero dilapidated school buildings by 2029
Published on: Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Sabah targets zero dilapidated school buildings by 2029
The students looked pleased as Punch when they told Bernama how delighted they were
Kota Kinabalu: The students looked pleased as Punch when they told Bernama how delighted they were to use the newly renovated toilets in their schools.

Finally, they no longer have to put up with burst pipes, broken doors, unhygienic conditions and unpleasant odours.

Bernama recently got to take a look at the spanking new toilets at two schools here – Sekolah Menengah Maktab Sabah and Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Inanam Dua – as well as SK Simpang located in the interiors of Tenom.

The visits were organised by the Sabah State Education Department’s (JPNS) Infrastructure and Procurement Sector.

The new-look toilets exude the feel of a five-star hotel restroom, each featuring brightly coloured tiles and better lighting, and complemented by framed pictures and decorative plants as well as air fresheners.

Interestingly, the situation has motivated the students of these schools to collectively adopt a responsible attitude towards maintaining the cleanliness of their school toilets.

These three schools are among 8,354 schools nationwide that had their toilets renovated under a programme that kicked off in mid-July last year, for which an allocation of RM630.77 million was made by the federal government.

The initiative came about after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim raised the issue of school toilets last June, saying he was aware they were mostly dirty and damaged so much so students refrained from using the toilets. 

Meanwhile, the smooth and speedy implementation of the school toilet renovation programme and its positive outcome have renewed the Sabah education authorities’ hopes of seeing the state’s dilapidated schools reconstructed, repaired and refurbished soon.

According to JPNS director Datuk Raisin Saidin, the toilet renovation initiative can serve as a benchmark in the context of Sabah’s dilapidated schools which are currently being reconstructed or renovated to improve the state of their buildings and facilities.

He said accelerating its implementation and completing the reconstruction and renovation works in accordance with the schedule set by the authorities will allow students to enjoy their improved infrastructure sooner as well as enable JPNS to realise its zero-dilapidated school target by 2029.

“It’s essential for schools to have good infrastructure in order to provide a quality environment for their students. Not only that, schools are also the foundation for the balanced development of human capital in terms of physical, emotional, spiritual, moral and intellectual aspects,” he told Bernama in an interview here.

Sabah has over 1,200 schools across the state, some of which are in good condition, some in need of maintenance and others categorised as dilapidated.  

Raisin said JPNS is also determined to shape a new educational landscape under its “Sepakat Sabah Hebat” strategic plan launched in January this year, adding it has already identified nine strategic focal points to realise its ambition.  

Recognising that schools must have complete and conducive infrastructure to strengthen the state education system, one of the primary focuses of the department will be infrastructure development and procurement.

This is to ensure the funds allocated for reconstruction and maintenance projects involving dilapidated schools are spent efficiently and effectively.

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek told the media in April that 218 out of 338 projects to reconstruct dilapidated schools in Sabah have been completed.

She said 60 projects are currently under construction and expected to be completed soon, while the remaining 60 projects are still in the planning stage.

Raisin said Sabah’s dilapidated school numbers have reduced since 2020 when 414 schools were found to be on scale 6 and 7 following comprehensive efforts to identify school buildings that were in bad shape.

(Scale 6 buildings are structures certified unsafe by the district education office and JPNS, while scale 7 buildings are certified unsafe by the Public Works Department.)

“This further demonstrates the federal government’s commitment, through the Ministry of Education, to address the issue (of dilapidated schools) in Sabah,” he said.

As of now, 514,070 Sabah students are enjoying better facilities after their previously dilapidated schools were upgraded.

Raisin said JPNS is constantly monitoring schools in the state to identify those with dilapidated buildings and also ensuring maintenance works are being carried out in schools with old buildings that are not rated as unsafe.

JPNS is also working closely with the federal Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Economy, and the Sabah state government, state Land and Survey Department and state Public Works Department to speed up the process of applying for and implementing remedial projects in dilapidated schools.

“Their integrated commitment is important to resolve the problems faced by Sabah schools,” he said, adding their efforts are also supported by “quality and visionary leadership, competent and highly aspirational teachers, as well as parents and the community”.

“With the full support of the various parties, I sincerely hope we can produce outstanding human capital by providing our students with an enjoyable learning environment.”

Commenting on the infrastructural challenges faced by Sabah schools, Raisin said in some schools, classrooms and other centres of instruction are housed in wooden structures that were constructed over 50 years ago and are still in use despite their deteriorated condition.

In fact, even in urban areas like Kota Kinabalu, there are still some schools with wooden buildings that look rundown.

He also said some schools in the state have been affected by floods and other natural disasters such as landslides, with their damaged buildings in need of immediate repairs.

In addition to the poor conditions of some schools, Sabah also faces a shortage of classrooms to meet the demand for preschool and special education programmes.

There is also a shortage of science laboratory equipment and technology design tools, resulting in some school facilities not being fully utilised.

Raisin, meanwhile, said JPNS has outlined both long-term and short-term plans to address various challenges faced by schools, ensure the safety of school communities and enhance the quality of teaching and learning in Sabah.

For the short term, the department is requesting funds to carry out maintenance works to extend the lifespan of schools with buildings placed on scale 5 and 6. It is also seeking emergency allocations to carry out immediate maintenance works at schools affected by natural disasters.

The department has also requested essential science laboratory equipment, technology design tools and sports facilities for schools that need them.

Under its long-term plan, JPNS is focusing on seeking allocations to reconstruct scale 7 schools as their existing structures are deemed unsafe and uneconomical to repair.   

The department is also requesting for funds to build additional buildings to house preschools and hostels; and, in the case of schools situated on slopes, to carry out mitigation measures to prevent landslides.

“We are also requesting for new schools (to be built) to address the issue of overcrowding in some schools and to meet the demands of the local population.

“We are also seeking buildings to house our district education offices as currently we are sharing buildings with others or renting them. Some of our (district education office) buildings are old and considered unsafe,” added Raisin.

Meanwhile, Sabah Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Dr Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif said the state government is consistently addressing and striving to put an end to the issue of dilapidated schools that have long plagued the state’s education sector.

Mohd Arifin, who is also the state executive council member in charge of education, recently inspected the condition of SK Darau, located about 13 kilometres from the city centre.

Photographs of the school went viral on social media earlier this year due to its dilapidated classrooms and aging structures that were badly in need of upgrades.

Mohd Arifin said JPNS is seeking an emergency allocation of about RM500,000 from the federal government to carry out repairs at the school concerned.

He said although school infrastructure development comes under the purview of MOE, the Sabah government is also concerned about this issue and is serious about resolving it.

He said the state government under the leadership of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor is intent on providing equal access to education for all the children of Sabah, and ensuring all schools have complete and conducive infrastructure.

“The state’s efforts to upgrade school infrastructure are also among the key elements in the development of human capital under the Sabah Maju Jaya roadmap,” he added.

The efforts are also in line with the prime minister’s commitment to resolve the issue of dilapidated schools as the provision of more conducive infrastructure will ensure a better education for students who will also be able to keep up with the digital transformation.

Mohd Arifin said if left unattended, the poor infrastructure at dilapidated schools will only hinder students from experiencing conducive learning sessions.

This, in turn, poses a significant challenge in bridging the gap between academic knowledge and skills, and industry needs.

He also believed collaborations among government agencies, government-linked corporations and private companies must be intensified to ensure Sabah’s dilapidated school issue is resolved once and for all.

He is confident the issue can be resolved considering JPNS’ commitment to achieve its zero-dilapidated school target within the next five years.

He said it would take about five years to attain the target as there are still a significant number of schools in Sabah with buildings rated as unsafe.

He added the new educational landscape envisioned by Sabah has also outlined efforts to ensure the state achieves an average grade of 4.99 for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination.

“These are also the goals of the Sabah government, which aims to produce more quality students in academic fields that align with knowledge and skills, and to create a match between supply and demand in the job market,” he explained.

Mohd Arifin hoped once the dilapidated school issue is resolved in Sabah, it will help improve student outcomes in line with the state’s aspiration to develop a new educational landscape.

He added education and the development of knowledgeable and skilled human capital are crucial elements in lifting people out of the cycle of poverty, thereby eliminating generational poverty as well as addressing social issues and underdevelopment.

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Keywords:
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