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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Enhance, not close Teachers Training Institutes

KOTA KINABALU - “The Federal government should fulfill their social and moral responsibility by enhancing teachers training institutes not close them even if they do not have the Budget to continue to maintain them.  Similarly, the Sabah government should shoulder an equal responsibility to ensure that the Institut Perguruan (IPG) Keningau and Gaya are not shut down by the Federal government” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, President of Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku and Bingkor Assemblyman in a press statement.

The Federal and Sabah governments need to understand the foresight and vision of former Deputy Chief Minister, Tan Sri Suffian Koroh, and historical significance of IPG Keningau and not agree to it being closed and sent into oblivion.

Tan Sri Koroh had donated 75 acres of now prime land in Keningau in 1982 for the construction of IPG Keningau as he understood the importance of having a teachers training college in the Interior to train teachers to teach future students in Sabah. The proposal received the support of then Minister of Education, Tun (then Dato’ Seri) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and IPG Keningau was built.

IPG Keningau started its maiden intake of trainee teachers in 1985 with Jikal Gabie as the inaugural College Principal although it was only officially opened in 1988.

The College then grew from strength to strength and now run numerous programs ranging from basic teacher certificates to the Malaysian Teaching Diploma and Teaching Degree courses as well as specialist educator diplomas, PPRPET, teachers teaching and education degree and post-graduate courses.

Graduates from IPG Keningau are now not only posted in Sabah but throughout the whole of Malaysia.   It is an iconic landmark in the Interior Sabah for teachers from the entire nation.

Apparently, a meeting was held on 11 October 2016 at the IPG Malay Language Campus in Kuala Lumpur that discussed the closure of 11 IPG Institutes nation-wide including the IPG Keningau and IPG Gaya in Sabah.

As announced by PM Najib in Budget 2017, the 11 IPG Colleges were to be closed with 2 to be taken over by PERMATA, 4 to be converted into Polytechnic Colleges, 4 into Vocational Colleges and 1 to be converted into TVET Vocational Trainer Training Centre.

The Federal government obviously do not have enough money in Budget 2017 and required the 11 IPG Colleges to be closed to save money. However, considering the drastic decision and far-reaching consequences from their closures, the burning question is why was such a drastic decision made and a single meeting held to discuss the closure procedures without any in-depth study being done or the people and government in Sabah being consulted for the 2 IPG Colleges in Sabah.

“Or was it the Sabah government being consulted in advance and they agreed to the closures of IPG Keningau and Gaya?” queried Dr. Jeffrey.

“If the Sabah government was not consulted and the Federal government unilaterally decided to close the 2 IPG Colleges in Sabah, then the arrogance and high-handedness of the decision in sidelining the Sabah government and the interests of Sabahans cannot be forgiven?

It needs no reminding that before the current closures, the Federal government had already closed the IPG in Tawau and Sandakan” added Dr. Jeffrey.

If such was the case, then the Sabah government will have no alternative but to register its strongest protest to the Federal government and the Ministry of Education and demand that the decision to close IPG Keningau and Gaya be retracted immediately. As an elected representative in Interior Sabah, I wish to record my strongest objection to the closures and will support the Sabah government in demanding the reversal of the decision.

The Federal government should not give the excuse that the intake of trainee teachers in IPG Keningau was not cost-effective and not in their financial interest is untenable.  The last intake of 15 trainees for June 2016 cannot be used as a yardstick as the decision to take only 15 trainees was solely made by the Federal Ministry of Education and not by IPG Keningau. They could very well have taken in 250 trainees if they had so wished and it would have been cost-effective.

Obviously, the Federal government has failed to consider alternative and better options to the closures.  One glaring option is a reduction of the BR1M payments of RM6.8 billion.

If the 11 Permata, Vocational and Polytechnics were required to be built, considering a high budget of RM400 million each, it would have cost RM4.4 billion. This sum could have been covered by a corresponding reduction of RM4.4 billion of BR1M payments. 

Another option would be to close other IPG colleges in Malaya and send their trainee teachers to IPG Keningau and Gaya. With the additional trainee teachers, it will be cost effective and the reason given for the closure of IPG Keningau and Gaya would no longer be valid.

The Umno-led BN Federal government should not gamble the future of teachers and students by choosing to pay BR1M instead as an election tactic to remain in power. It is suicidal for the nation to forego human capital development which will be lifeline of the nation in the near future. For the future well-being of Malaysia, the Federal government should have enhanced the IPG Colleges not close them.

Alternatively, the Federal government could have the several National Service Training Centres (PLKN) which have been abandoned for the last several years, to be converted into Permata, Vocational and Polytechnics. These PLKN facilities are more suited to be converted into vocational and polytechnics and at lower costs than the IPG Colleges.

The Federal government need to re-assess the circumstances and revoke its decision to close the IPG Keningau and Gaya. As for the Sabah government, they should do some soul-searching and do what is right for the people of Sabah and demand that the closures of IPG Keningau and Gaya be retracted by the Federal government.

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