All alone in class

Pupils of SJK Nang Sang in Ulu Sungai Merah get ready for the reopening of the school today.

Two Chinese schools on Sibu outskirts have only one Primary 1 pupil each

SIBU: One Primary One pupil of SJK Boi Ing in Bukit Lan and another one in SJK Yong Shing in Stabau will receive star treatment of sorts when they show up at their schools today. All eyes will be on them because both of these village schools have only one Primary One pupil each!

Another 18 of the 68 Chinese primary schools here and in Mukah and Kapit Divisions that are under the United Association of Chinese Primary Aided School Boards of Management, Sibu and Kapit Divisions, are doing not much better.

For instance, Nang Kiang has three Primary One pupils this year, Yuk Choi (4), Hang Kwong (2), Chung Boon (4) and Kai Dee (4). Of these five, only SJK Chung Boon is in Mukah.

The other 13 schools, all in the outskirts of Sibu, each have fewer than 10 Primary One pupils, too.

The association’s chairman, Teo Boon Siew, told The Borneo Post yesterday that these schools had been facing drastic pupil-population drop in recent years.

He said the association was fighting hard to retain these schools.

“These are village schools. The pupil population has been dropping because villagers continue to move out. Some schools have poor roads. Once the families uproot from their villages, they will not return.”

Teo said the problems were complex, and they needed assistance from the government.

He said villagers continued to migrate elsewhere due to lack of job opportunities. “We are talking about families who moved out after staying in these villages for three to five generations.”

Teo lamented that once they found jobs in Sibu and elsewhere, they would stay put there and send their children to urban Chinese primary schools.

Stressing that many of these village schools were not far from the town, he opined, “If there is a good road network, these villagers would not have to move out. They can stay on even if the parents of these pupils work in town. But because of the poor roads, travelling becomes a pain.”

Teo said so long as there were pupils in the schools, the government would not force them to close. “Therefore, our task now is to retain them, and we appeal to the government for help.”

He said if the situation persisted, they would be forced to merge these schools to increase the pupil population.

Until that day comes, the association would struggle to save the 20 schools. The association is closely monitoring the situation in these schools for 2016 and 2017 and was stepping up measures.

According to the records of the Chinese Aided Primary School Boards Association, there are 2,247 Primary 1 pupils in the 47 Chinese primary schools in Sibu Division alone this year.

While village schools are suffering, Chinese primary schools in Sibu town are booming. Tung Hua at Tun Abang Hj Openg Road has the most number of Primary One pupils – 163, while Thai Kwang at Lanang Road comes in next with 154.

The other seven Chinese primary schools in urban Sibu are also booming with their Primary One classes.

Tiong Hin has 144, Methodist (138), Rejang Partk (136), Su Lai (153), Thian Ching (143), Thian Hua (136) and Sibu Bandaran No 4 (109)



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