SARAWAK FOCUS: Let me highlight two contrasting stories. One tells of the rearing of pigs and their welfare and health being looked after and the other is about the plight of poor rural students in Sarawak.
At the centralised pig farming centre at Jirok, Ulu Simunjan, there are several thousand pigs that are well taken care of using a German technology. It’s one pig per room, which is fully air-conditioned with automated bath and feeding facilities. Imagine yourself in a 5-star hotel.
There are also veterinary facilities with one vet assigned to look after the welfare and health of the pigs.
The slaughtered pigs are exported mainly to Singapore and are expected to earn an income of RM500 million annually.
Now compare this pig story to the plight of some 200 poor rural students who are boarding in SMK Sundar in Lawas. The students come from Long Sukang, Long Semadoh and Ba’Kelalan areas.
When they started class last Monday, they were offered old and torn textbooks with some not getting any because of shortage. Mattresses and pillows were old, stained and torn – all dumped in a heap in the dormitory.
The school also lacks other facilities.
In the words of a parent: “Mereka berebut dengan buku texs seperti ikan makan baja; siapa dulu diadapat” (they scrambled for the text books like fishes going for food; the one who gets there first will get them).
It is hard enough for parents to leave their children in a faraway school, but to see the appalling conditions their children are subjected to are really heartbreaking for these parents.
Do you think the parents will have confidence that their children will fare well in school when they have to put up with such a mess? For want of a better term, this is truly Third World conditions.
Their young inquisitive minds are ready to learn but they are not given proper textbooks. Their growing bodies need proper rest but they are given mattresses that are torn, stained, smelly and unhygienic.
Compare them with the pigs in Ulu Simunjan.
“Does the government really expect our schoolchildren to thrive and excel by subjecting them to this squalor? Is it any wonder that our rural students are performing worse than Vietnamese rural students in the PISA assessment?” asked Baru Bian, Ba’Kelalan assemblyman when commenting on the issue.
He had brought up the need to establish SMK Long Semadoh on numerous occasions including the last sitting of the State Legislative Assembly.
Land had been acquired in 2003 but the school has not been built up to today. The shocking conditions at SMK Sundar reinforce the urgency of the need for another new school in the district.
The government, according to Baru, should place the highest priority on building SMK Long Semadoh.
“I request the Minister of Women, Welfare and Family Development to investigate the conditions at SMK Sundar and to make immediate improvements such as providing proper text books and new mattresses and pillows and whatever basic amenities that may be necessary,” he said.
Baru also said that “time and again, the press highlights the dilapidated condition of our rural schools.”
“The minister in charge and sometimes even the chief minister make the appropriate comments but that is about it.
“There is absolutely no change. There is no political will to improve the rural schools. There is no money from the Federal government.
“Is this the development that the BN government is so proud of achieving? Our children deserve better than this,” he added.
Although the government has been informed of the appalling conditions of the majority of rural schools, they continued to be neglected and forgotten.
There was a promise of RM1 billion made in February 2014, but until today the money never came.
Obviously, the welfare and the future of our rural students are neglected and treated worse than the welfare of the pigs.
Although the pig-rearing will bring income to the state, the students are the future leaders of their communities and the country.
And are we going to produce “half-past six” leaders to quote Dr Mahathir? – The Ant Daily