Saturday, October 19

‘Power’ in the hands of contractor


Datuk Fatimah Abdullah

SMK Katibas power-less due to lack of maintenance of generators resulting in no electricity and water

KUCHING: The power and water issues besieging SMK Katibas since last April 2 4 should not have happened because the government had given a contractor RM21 million to maintain the generators of 14 schools, including SMK Katibas, in Song.

Minister of Welfare, Women and Family Development Datuk Fatimah Abdullah disclosed that the contract period was from Jan 1, 2015 to Dec 31, 2016.

She told The Borneo Post yesterday that based on a report from the state Education Department, the contractor, with a Muara Tabuan (in Kuching) address, was informed of the electricity supply failure last April 28 and 30.

“The Education Department instructed the company to take action to ensure no interruption of power supply and to repair the broken generators. But the company still failed to provide electricity to the school.”

Since last April 24, the last of four generators powering SMK Katibas – a boarding school located about an hour’s boat ride from Song – broke down. Since that day, the school not only plunged into total darkness whenever the sun sets, but it had no clean water supply, too, as the water pumps needed electricity to work. Without electricity and water, SMK Katibas’s student population dwindled from 350 to about 20 on May 8. The rest of the students preferred to stay home in their longhouses rather than attending school.

Fatimah said the contractor failed to budge, adding the Education Department then instructed the Education District officer and the principal to identify other companies in Song or Sibu to rent generators as a temporary measure to solve the school’s problem.

“The Education Department has allocated RM15,000 for diesel and RM13,000 for the rental of the generators per month,” she said. Fatimah added that SMK Katibas Co-operative of Song then took the initiative to rent three sets of generator of 3,000kw, 4,000kw and 650kw, two pumps, and two filter drums for a fee of RM13,000 per month.

This enabled SMK Katibas to get back to its feet and to serve students from 140 longhouses in the area.

Meanwhile, commenting on predicaments besieging rural schools, Land Development Minister Tan Sri James Jemut Masing told The Borneo Post that what happened at SMK Katibas was not unique.

“Most rural schools in the state are facing the same problem. SMK Baleh in my area is facing that problem for the last 15 years.

“I have brought this matter up many times to the relevant authority, but to date, there has been no response.”

He believed there were other schools that are in similar need of clean water.

“We have no excuse not to provide clean running water for our students. Water authorities at federal and state levels should take this matter seriously.

“Rural schools must be looked after in the same vein as urban schools. There must be no discrimination.

“We have spent millions to supply water to urban areas, yet when it comes to rural areas, the problem is put in the back burner. This is most unacceptable,” said Masing.