KUCHING: Land Development Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing believes the lack of qualified locals to teach in schools in Sarawak is more a political than technical matter.
“What federal leaders are telling Sarawakians is that in Sarawak we don’t have enough qualified people who have the minimum qualification (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) to be admitted or trained or retrained as teachers for Sarawak.
“I don’t believe that. I believe we have enough qualified passes in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and graduates who are qualified to train in teacher training institutes. (Therefore), I believe the decision to enrol (teachers to be trained) is more of a political decision than a technical (qualification) decision,” Masing, who is also Parti Rakyat Sarawak president, told The Borneo Post yesterday.
He was responding to Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh’s statement on Sunday that teachers from the peninsula had to be posted to Sarawak as there were more vacancies than local graduates for the job.
Idris said this year alone, Sarawak required 2,432 teachers, but the number of qualified Sarawakians for the job stood at 601 only.
Masing said although he did not have the facts to dispute Idris’s argument, what was certain was that there were more than 50 Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UniRazak) graduates in education who were still unemployed.
“We have 50 UniRazak graduates with suitable teaching knowledge, except they are not trained as teachers. I believe they could be deployed or retrained (working while studying).”
To fill vacancies for teachers in the state, Baleh assemblyman Masing suggested that the Education Ministry take the UniRazak graduates as teachers and train them along the way — something that had been done before.
Masing also clarified that he did not say that hundreds or thousands of peninsula graduates were posted to become teachers in the state, but merely said there were a lot of them, so much so that they could replace locals from working as teachers in the state.
Meanwhile, PKR women national vice president Voon Shiak Ni described Idris’ statement as insensitive and a blatant insult to Sarawakians.
She questioned the minister whether “Sarawakians are really not qualified or they are not given the opportunity to be trained as teachers?”
“Since the minister gave us the number of Sarawakians qualified for the job, we want to know how many Sarawakians were recruited into teacher training institutes in Sarawak.
“In addition, since there is a shortage, we also want to know the measures to be taken to improve intake to ensure that Sarawak schools are fully staffed with Sarawakian teachers and how long will it take to achieve the plan?”
Voon, who is also PKR Stampin branch vice chairperson, wanted the Education Ministry to reveal the number of intakes for teacher training institutes in Sarawak and how many applications were rejected. She also wanted to know the actual number of new teachers who were posted to Sarawak this year and how many of them were Sarawakians.
“Their (Ministry’s) explanation is important as it was recently reported that 90 per cent of the 500 teachers posted to Sarawak this year are West Malaysians.”
Voon also wanted the Education Ministry to look into the issue where locally trained teachers waited for a year to be posted, adding that Sarawakians should be given priority to job opportunities in the state.
While advising Idris not to make abrupt and insensitive statement that could antagonise Sarawakians, Voon said she had seen Sarawakians with better results than those from the peninsula, but were not successful in their applications to teacher training institutes.
Meanwhile, Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, who was in Kuala Lumpur for the education exco meeting yesterday chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, said the issue of lack of qualified Sarawakians to be teachers would be among issues to be raised by her during the meeting.