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Thursday, November 3, 2016

State govt gives SMK St Teresa RM1 mln in aid

KUCHING - The state government yesterday gave SMK St. Teresa RM1 million to rebuild the school’s hall and classrooms that were damaged by a fire on Saturday.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem presented the cheque to the all-girls school’s board chairman, Wong Mee King, at his office in Wisma Bapa Malaysia yesterday.

Present at the ceremony were principal Mary John and Assistant Minister of Early Childhood Education and Family Development Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali.

Mary said the school had yet to decide on whether to rebuild the two-storey hall, which will cost almost RM4.9 million, or construct a raised floor hall, which cost RM2.7 million.

“The RM1 million will really be helpful for us to start, and we are very thankful to the state government and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem,” she said, when met by reporters after the cheque handing over ceremony.

She disclosed that the two-storey hall, which was built in 1971, was completely gutted.

The fire, however, did not spread to the ground floor of the hall, which housed the staff room, surau, music room, library, sewing room, ‘Kemahiran Hidup’ (life skill) workshop, students and teachers toilets, and counselling room, but they are now unsafe to use.

The principal added that at the moment, one of the school’s 15 classrooms was being used as staff room and the others would be used for the coming Sijil Pelajran Malaysia (SPM) examination.

Even before the fire, the school was congested as its 15 classrooms accommodated 35 classes for 1,200 students from Form 1 to 5 and 75 teachers.

Mary disclosed that the schools’ Form 1, 2 and 4 students had been granted special leave-of-absence permission by the director of education until Nov 14.

“For next year, we will need to operate outside, and we are going to build a single-storey building equivalent to five classrooms for our staff room within six months. So, we have to start immediately after the SPM exam.”

The school is considering setting up tents as temporary staffroom during the construction of the new building, and it is appealing to corporate bodies to help set up the tents and remove the damaged buildings. This is estimated to cost RM100,000.

“We are also appealing to the public to contribute. Whatever little amount, we will appreciate. Well-wishers can visit the Facebook page ‘Save St Teresa’ to channel their help.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Datuk Fatimah Abdullah explained that unlike the other five schools in the state that were also razed by fire this year, the cost of rebuilding SMK St. Teresa would not be funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE) as it is a mission school.

“The other five schools are all government schools. Their properties belong to the Ministry of Education, so it is the federal government’s duty to rebuild when the schools were burnt down.

“For St Teresa, the property belongs to the school board. So MOE will not automatically help to rebuild the buildings . The school board will have to do it themselves.”

However, Fatimah said the SMK St Teresa school board could still get help from MOE through the Aided School Fund.

“There is only one condition to abide by, and that is the one-to-one principle. It means the school will have to share half the responsibility.

For example, if St Teresa needs RM2 million to rebuild, they can apply to MOE for RM1 million from the Aided School Fund, while the school board would have to come out with the other RM1 million,” explained Fatimah, who has been entrusted by the cabinet to oversee education affairs in the state.

Apart from the rebuilding fund, Fatimah said the school could also apply to MOE to replace all the textbooks burnt during the fire.

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