More in opinion

Opinion

Thursday, 12 July 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Where did the money go?

I WAS distraught upon learning of the RM1.25bil solar panel scandal involving schools in Sarawak which emerged in the news last month.

Between that and the online school examination analysis system or Sistem Analisis Peperiksaan Sekolah (SAPS) being suspended for security purposes, as well as the urgent calls by parents, teachers and schools to implement changes to the education system, I believe the Education Ministry has a lot on their plate to deal with.

Unfortunately, I have more to ask of this ministry.

Budget 2018 allocated RM250mil for the education of the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) generation to develop Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) centres and improve Computer Science modules including coding programmes.

RM190mil of this amount was supposed to be used to upgrade 2,000 classes (comprising primary and secondary schools including SJKC and SJKT) into 21st century smart classrooms to enhance creative-based learning and innovative thinking. The smart classrooms were slated to be completed in March 2018.

RM20mil would be given to the Cultural Economy Development Agency to improve the arts sector.

In the Budget 2018 speech, it was announced that a total of RM550mil would be allocated for the upgrading and maintenance of schools, with the breakdown as follows:

> National schools – RM250mil;

> National-type Chinese schools – RM50mil;

> National-type Tamil schools – RM50mil;

> Missionary schools – RM50mil;

> Boarding schools – RM50mil;

> Mara Junior Science Colleges – RM50mil; and

> Government-aided religious schools – RM50mil.

Let’s not forget the allocation for upgrading and refurbishing 2,000 dilapidated schools nationwide. Schools in Peninsular Malaysia were supposed to receive RM500mil while Sabah and Sarawak were promised RM1bil each. That amounts to RM2.5bil.

There was also an additional RM2.9bil allocated “for food assistance, textbooks, per capita grants and Federal Scholarships for schools.”

Firstly, I would like to know if these monies were disbursed as promised. Dilapidated schools in Sarawak clearly haven’t received their allocations. Have dilapidated schools in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia received their allocations?

What about the transformation of 2,000 classrooms for 21st century learning? How many classes have undergone the required upgrades? And what about our Computer Studies modules and coding programmes?

If none of these objectives have been met, where did the money go?

Secondly, we need to talk about the funding allocated to our schools. The sums may appear large as they are in the millions. In reality, the funding is barely enough to keep our schools running.

For example, from the Education Ministry’s website, one can see that there are 1,298 SJKCs in the country. The sum allocated is RM50mil for this type of school. This amounts to a funding of RM38,520 per school, a mere average of RM3,210 per month for each school.

For the 525 SJKT schools receiving the RM50mil allocation, funding amounts to an average of RM7,936 per month for each school.

I can’t find the exact number for other types of schools to make more calculations but the gist of it is that with those numbers and the rising cost of living, our schools cannot afford to discontinue their donation drives.

Friends of mine who are teachers in mission schools and national schools have also told me of budget cuts that have been plaguing their school for years.

I have also heard of teachers forking out their own money to buy materials for lessons, most often to buy paper to print their school examinations.

It is high time for us to talk dollars and cents. Our primary and secondary schools sorely require financial assistance to properly carry out their responsibilities.

To the new government, please spare a thought for our schools in Budget 2019. It is time we fix our schools inside and out.

S.Y. LEE

Johor Baru