BETONG: The chorus of ‘Terima kasih Petronas’ from the 134 pupils of Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) St John rang out loudly.
They were expressing their heartfelt gratitude to several volunteers from Malaysia LNG Group of Companies for giving their 53-year-old residential school – located about a 45-minute drive from Betong town – a much-needed facelift.
Not only does it sport a fresh coat of paint now, the school’s science laboratory, hostel and toilets have also been renovated and refurbished, and the area where the water storage tank is located has been tiled.
Other facilities have also been added to the school.
The month-long project carried out by Malaysia LNG under its Petronas Outreach programme, was completed early this month at a cost of RM1.3 million.
The Petronas Outreach programme is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative of Malaysia LNG – a subsidiary of Petroliam Nasional Bhd – to improve the well-being of rural communities.
Malaysia LNG chief executive officer Mohamed Syazwan [email protected] Jenggi said its CSR initiative has three core thrusts, namely education, community well-being, and development and environment.
“In the case of SK St John, our outreach programme focused on improving the facilities at the school which the students and teachers needed greatly.
“The renovation of the science lab was part of our efforts to support mastery of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) by the students,” he said.
He said about 100 volunteers were involved in the project, which also involved roping in the students for “fun learning activities” in line with the company’s holistic development concept.
Meanwhile, speaking at the launch of the Petronas Outreach programme recently, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said SK St John’s facelift was like a dream come true for him and Member of Parliament for Betong Datuk Robert Lawson Chuat.
“SK St John is a missionary school that we (state government) have been trying to improve for a long time. I want students in rural areas to have the determination and discipline to get an education despite their shortcomings. If one is serious enough, one can change his/her life,” he said.
SK St John senior assistant 1 Austin Albert Jalin, who has taught at the school for seven years, said the school was previously classified as a Category Two remote school.
“After an access road was built, the school’s Category Two remote status was dropped.
“Currently, it has rural school status as it still lacks certain facilities,” he said.
Thanks to the Petronas Outreach programme, the school hostel is now equipped with new mattresses, beds and cupboards, he said, adding that ceiling fans have also been installed.
“Our students can now sleep comfortably. Our science lab now has new chairs and tables, as well as new equipment that make (the) learning (environment) more conducive,” he added.
Oleyvia Peritty Sita, a Year Six pupil at SK St John, said she was happy to have her own bed in the hostel as previously the students had to share mattresses that were placed on the floor.
Eddy Nielson Sigai, who was also in Year Six, said he looked forward to science classes as the laboratory is now equipped with new learning materials.
“Science is among my favourite subjects and there’s even a computer in the lab for our use,” said Eddy, who is expected to be among the school’s high achievers for this year’s Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (Primary School Assessment Examination).
Betung District School Management Board deputy chairman Seli Kri, meanwhile, urged the state government to speed up efforts to rehabilitate dilapidated schools.
“SK St John, for example, still doesn’t have 24-hour power supply and is only equipped with a generator. It often faces water supply problems as well. We feel sorry for the students who, if there is no water supply, have to bathe in the nearby river, which can be dangerous although they are accompanied by a hostel warden or teacher,” he said.
Besides SK St John, other schools covered by the Petronas Outreach programme include SK Ulu Pelagus, SK Nanga Penyarai, SK Sungai Selad, SK Sungai Setiam, SK Sungai Genaan and SJK Siong Boon.
According to press reports, the federal government allocated RM149 million under Budget 2018 to renovate run-down schools in Sarawak but the amount was sufficient to meet the needs of only 116 out of the 1,020 old schools in the state.
Some 371 schools in Sarawak use generators for power supply while 428 schools still do not enjoy treated water supply. — Bernama