Bintulu rural schools crying out for diesel to run their gensets


A photo posted on social media showing pupils of SK Labang having to spend the night at a community hall in the village because of a electricity outage two months ago. File Photo

BINTULU: Rural schools here that are depending on diesel-powered generators for their electricity supply are rationing their diesel to avoid getting into darkness.

A source said seven schools here were using generators, namely, SK Ulu Segan, SK Sungai Silas, SK Sungai Selad, SK Sungai Setiam, SK Sungai Setulan, SK Kampung Nyalau, and SK Kuala Nyalau.

They are waiting for additional diesel from the supplier and if none comes within the next two days, the pupils would be left in the dark.

The source added that the schools were only using the generators for six to 10 hours a day to ration on diesel.

SK Ulu Segan, SK Sungai Selad and SK Sungai Setiam are boarding schools, and it is also understood that several schools in Sebauh District had been in the dark for several nights.

Complaints have been forwarded to the supplier through the Sarawak Education Department.

“If the diesel does not reach the schools within these two days, the children will be left in the dark, all raw food in the boarding schools will be damaged, and the pupils will have difficulty concentrating on their studies,” said the source who wished to remain anonymous.

Two primary schools in Sebauh District (SK Sungai Sengian and SK Kuala Binyo) are also in the dark as their diesel-powered generators have run out of fuel.

Sebauh Education officer, Tero Bayel, when contacted yesterday said the schools were in darkness since July 29 because of the failure of Jepak Holdings to send them the diesel.

“Two more schools, SK Bukit Mawang and SK Hermanus Assan, were expected to be in the dark yesterday (July 30) if no new supply is sent to the schools,” he said, adding that all matters concerning gensets and diesel were the responsibility of Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd.

“I have been asking them everyday about the diesel supply to these schools, texting and calling them, and they said they would be delivering diesel to the affected schools accordingly,” said Tero.

However, the schools have not received any so far.

He added Jepak Holdings should ensure uninterrupted supply of diesel to these schools, an issue which has been a cause for concern for them (department) and the schools.

It is learned that the sub-contractor refused to deliver the diesel as they have yet to receive payment from Jepak Holdings.

SK Sengian has 119 pupils, SK Kuala Binyo (33), SK Bukit Mawang (39), and SK Hermanus Assan (70 pupils).

SK Kuala Nyalau with 85 pupils also experienced the same fate (without electricity) yesterday (July 29).

A spokesman of Jepak Holdings Gabriel Walter, meanwhile, said several suppliers and transporters have terminated their service due to rumours that Jepak Holdings would not be paid by the Ministry of Education (MoE), and were demanding for payment before continuing with the sub-contract work.

“It was reported on May 2019 that Jepak Holdings has not been paid by MoE for diesel and genset work done since January 2018.

“Some people are spreading rumours that the ministry will not pay us, or even cancelled the project. We have to calm down. The MoE must pay to give confidence to the market,” he said.

He added that Jepak Holdings managed 337 schools, and every week they would have some issues at the schools.

“When the school service was handed back to us in April this year, 185 schools were operating only with one genset each.

“With 225 broken gensets, many schools are naturally in the darkness.

“This genset issue is brought about by non-maintenance by Sarawak Education Department when they took over via an interim programme from July 2018 to April this year,” Gabriel said.

He added that Jepak Holdings had to keep a low profile at the moment for fear of sabotage, and if they could have 98 per cent of the schools running without any issue, they would be happy dealing with only pockets of problematic schools.

He said about 800 workers are currently employed for the project.