JUST like in previous budgets, we expect Budget 2023 to allocate the highest funds to education and healthcare. And rightly so.

The Health Ministry has outlined critical areas that need funding to enhance healthcare service to the nation in various public announcements. However, the Education Ministry does not appear to have such clear plans or perhaps its plans have not been communicated cohesively.

As the highest recipient of national funds, the Education Ministry must use its allocation strategically and have a clear roadmap on how to achieve its goals.

The nation celebrated its 65th independence this year. This would mean that a majority of schools in the country are about 30 to 40 years old. The buildings and the infrastructure are in dire need of maintenance, repair and upgrade.

For the past two years, I have sat in a Parent-Teachers Association (PIBG) committee of a school and witnessed it grappling with infrastructure issues. Pipes leaking, water pumps breaking down, perimeter fences in state of disrepair, wiring issues, clogged and broken toilets and many more.

Each time these matters were relayed to the District Education Office, we were informed that there was no funding available to fix the problems. We were told to wait, with no timeline given, or to fix it ourselves. And we fixed it.

During the pandemic, we could not sit and watch our children go without running water to wash their hands, or be at risk of strangers entering the school from the back due to the broken fences. More often than not, these infra repairs cost tens of thousands of ringgit.

The PIBG has been constantly fundraising for many years, so that it can do what the government is supposed to do. We would have preferred to channel our resources to enhancing our children’s academic and co-curricular achievements, such as providing free tuition or hiring coaches.

And with the constant fundraising, the fatigue has set in. Generous donors are starting to question the inaction of the government, and why we are asking for donations. These are fair points.

We have raised this with our assemblyman and she informed us that to her knowledge, this is the case for all schools. The District Education officer has relayed to her that his office has not been given sufficient budget to repair or maintain the infrastructure, and a lot of the burden has to be borne by the parents via the PIBG.

The Education Ministry must take into account the ageing infrastructure and allocate more to this cause. There must be a master plan not to just repair and maintain the buildings, but also to upgrade and modernise the buildings.

Education has evolved over the decades and the ministry must enable and empower our teachers to use current technologies to teach. At present, our school is not even equipped with old technology. The PIBG pays the monthly photocopy machine rental. And we are also expected to supply the paper.

There is a critical need for the ministry to revamp the management of schools and the allocation of resources. If the PIBG has to play such a critical role in upkeep, perhaps the ministry can funnel an annual allocation to us. This could be similar to the National Unity and Integration Department providing annual funding to each Neighbourhood Rukun Tetangga to conduct its activities.

Alternatively, the ministry can consider implementing a claim process in which PIBG can foot the bill first and claim for reimbursement from the relevant department later. This will reduce the perpetual fundraising conducted by PIBG as we can use the reimbursement for future repairs and other projects.

There are probably other plausible solutions, but what is most important is that the Education Ministry acknowledges the issues and seeks to resolve them. As parents, our interests are aligned, and we are willing to share our views, insights and experiences should the minister be keen to hear them.

Teh Eng Hock

PIBG committee member

SK Subang Jaya