KUCHING, Dec 6 — The Education Ministry will only give consent to the state government to connect 113 rural primary schools to the main electricity grid after the existing contract between the ministry and a diesel contractor has been resolved, a Sarawak minister said today.
State Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Datuk Seri Michael Manyin said he has received a letter from Education Minister Maszlee Malik explaining the reason for not allowing the state government to connect the schools to the electricity grid for now.
“In his letter dated November 29, the federal minister explained that the state’s proposal could only be implemented after issues related to the existing contract have been resolved,” he said, referring to a contract awarded by the previous federal government to a company to supply diesel for generator sets to the schools.
He said officials from his ministry will meet with their federal counterparts to work on the details of connecting the schools to the electricity grid once the aforementioned issues have been resolved.
Manyin said the state government has proposed an allocation of RM59 million to connect the 113 schools to the power grid and 33 others to the main water pipe.
He said although education is the responsibility of the federal government, the state government has offered to implement these projects to safeguard the well-being and welfare of the students and teachers.
He denied claims by the Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, in particular Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, that the issue of education, dilapidated schools and lack of amenities had been politicised.
Manyin said since last year, he has gone public with the condition of schools in Sarawak as well as the plight of students and appealed to the previous federal government for larger allocations to solve the problems.
“I have made it very clear that the main factor contributing to these problems is the lack of funding allocation from the previous government,” he said, adding that the physical needs of the schools have not received due consideration and unless special allocations are made, the situation will only worsen.
He said due to his constant and persistent appeals, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a RM500 million allocation for this year and another RM500 million for next year to fix 1,020 dilapidated schools in the state.
He added 116 schools have been upgraded at a cost RM419 million in 2018, and said he hoped that the PH federal government will make available the RM500 million for 2019.
He asked PH MPs from Sarawak, who are mostly from urban constituencies, to go to rural areas to see the school conditions for themselves.
“We cannot understand the problem on the ground if we remain as armchair politicians,” he said, pointing out Maszlee himself has acknowledged the severity of the problems faced by the rural schools.