Can’t wait any longer

Immediate action needed to address major problems afflicting high-risk schools following school collapse

The devastation on SK Kampung Buda after a landslide that occurred in the wee hours of Wednesday.

KUCHING: The landslip disaster at SK Kampung Buda in Spaoh, Betong should serve as a giant wake-up call for both state and federal governments to shift up a gear in responding to major problems affecting 486 high-risk schools in Sarawak, more so when children’s life is at stake.

The high-risk schools represent about 33.5 per cent of the total number of primary and secondary schools in the state.

On Wednesday, a landslide which occurred at about 3am caused several blocks of the school to be swept away into the nearby river.

Fortunately, the incident happened during the school holidays and as such, there was no threat to life.

Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah pointed out yesterday that this was a major issue that deserved due attention from both the state and federal governments.

“Yearly reports have been sent but only that much can be done. Action is too slow and funding is insufficient considering the number of high-risk schools as well as the unique and challenging geographical landscape of Sarawak,” she said.

Fatimah highlighted this at a press conference after the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting, which was also attended by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Saribas assemblyman Muhd Razi Sitam.

“The ministry has identified all the high-risk schools in Sarawak that should be given priority for repair and construction works. We hope the central government can take this into consideration,” she said.

“There are many schools located in riverbanks or up the hill in Sarawak’s rural areas because these places are where Malay villages and settlements started. But today, many of these schools built using wood are no longer fit for use,” she added.

According to state Education Department director Rakayah Madon, nearly half of the 1,264 primary schools and 189 secondary schools, mostly in rural areas, were categorised as high-risk – either deemed to have inferior quality of buildings or located in disaster-prone areas like by the riverbank or up the hill.

Meanwhile, Uggah emphasised that this incident should act as a wake-up call to the government to act decisively, immediately and speedily in resolving this issue.

“The incident could be seen as a blessing in disguise. We appeal to the ministries to take immediate action to address this problem to avoid and prevent any unfortunate incident from taking place,” he urged.

“Disaster comes without warning,” he added.

Fatimah (second left) addresses the press conference. Also seen are Uggah (left) and Razi. — Photos by Chimon Upon

The devastation on SK Kampung Buda after a landslide that occurred in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Uggah (second right) and Razi (right), accompanied by officers and villagers, inspecting SK Kampung Buda which was severely damaged by a landslide.

Meanwhile, Uggah and Muhd Razi managed to visit the school yesterday after failing to fly to the site on Wednesday due to bad weather.

Both relayed greetings from Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem that the Barisan Nasional(BN) government was committed to assist the village community affected by the landslide.

Uggah said Adenan expressed his sympathy and hoped that the residents of Kampung Buda would be patient in facing the incident.

“We had announced to the villagers and residents of the area that the school children will be temporarily relocated to SK Spaoh and stay in the school hostel until the new school building is built and completed,” he said.

He also said Betong Resident’s Office had been asked to monitor the situation and relocate the villagers if necessary.

Among those present at the site were Betong Resident Datu Romie Daniel, Betong acting district officer Paimon Faishar and Betong divisional education officer Sapawi Mahdi.

 

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