Unions support move to inspect food items sold outside schools

SIBU: Teacher unions in the state call for the suggestion to monitor what food hawkers are selling outside the school gate to also include the aspect of hygiene.

Sarawak Teachers Union (STU) president Jisin Nyud said the proposed move would help ensure that the schoolchildren would be consuming clean and nutritious food.

His remarks were made in response to the statement by Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, who said his ministry would monitor and conduct enforcement against the sale of food items categorised under ‘banned or non-nutritious foods’ outside the school compound.

Mahdzir was quoted as saying that the matter would be implemented in collaboration with the Health Department, the local authorities and the state Education Offices under the National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS).

On this, Jisin said: “STU agrees with the Education Minister’s suggestion on monitoring what the food hawkers or sellers are selling outside the school compound.

“Still, this would be better if the cleanliness of the food and the stalls, as well as the hygiene of the hawkers themselves could be included under this monitoring because children – being children – don’t really care about hygiene especially when they’re hungry.

“Regarding ‘banned foods’, we have yet to be sure of what these items are – unless they specifically refer to religion. I’m sure that the hawkers or sellers are aware of this matter. As consumers, we must also be aware of what kind of food that these hawkers are selling.”

Nevertheless, Jisin regarded the suggestion by the minister as ‘a good one’ to ensure that ‘our schoolchildren are taking clean and nutritious food’.

“With regular monitoring, I’m certain that their (food vendors and hawkers) service also will improve,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Bumiputera Teachers Union (KGBS) president Ahmad Malie also expressed his support for the move by Education Ministry, especially the enforcement against the sale of non-nutritious foods.

He said by right, such operators should ‘not be in existence’ in that most schools had canteens.

“The presence of these operators creates rivalry with those running the school canteens, which is unfair because the canteen operators are required to pay rental fees. The rivalry with the food vendors operating outside the school grounds slightly affected their (school canteen operators) income.”

Moreover Ahmad said even more unfortunate was the school canteen operators would be the first to be blamed whenever a food poisoning case occurred.

“This always happens, despite the uncertainty of the source of the tainted food consumed by the schoolchildren,” he said.

However, Ahmad believed that for schools without canteen, the presence of outside food operators would be a big help.

“Still, it is important that these vendors be monitored, especially on the aspect of hygiene, from time to time. “In addition, these operators must to be reminded to always give full cooperation to school authorities to ensure that the food items sold to children are clean and nutritious. Should they fail to comply with this requirement, it is only appropriate that that the authorities concerned carry out enforcement measures against them,” he said.

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