PETALING JAYA, June 9 — Sabah is considering the possibility of only allowing children aged above 15 years to climb Mount Kinabalu in the wake of the death of six children in the June 5 earthquake that claimed 16 lives.
State education director Datuk Jame Alip said he had spoken about the matter to state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who is also the state executive councillor in charge of education.
“We will bring it up in our next meeting. For me, 15 years seems like a more reasonable age,” he said, adding that he was extremely saddened by the deaths.
Jame said he was surprised when he heard about the death of the students as he had not known about the school trip up the mountain.
“We were not told about it. The slopes are steep and dangerous. I would not encourage children below 15 to climb the mountain,” he added.
Recalling his own experience, he said he was 20 when he trekked up Mount Kinabalu and even then it was tough for him.
“I cannot imagine how it would be like for young students.”
Five of the students who died were from Singapore’s Tanjong Katong Primary School which had been sending teams up the mountain for years. The other student who died was from Japan.
The official Mount Kinabalu website states that climbers should be at least 10 years old.
Jame also urged the Education Ministry to introduce earthquake drills for students nationwide.
“Students are generally taught that in an emergency situation, they should drop everything and run down the fire escape. But that only applies during fires.
“When an earthquake strikes, you do the opposite — you drop to the ground, take cover and hold on. The children must know this,” he said.
A blogger has also weighed in on the question of child climbers by asking if children should be allowed to trek up the mountain.
He said the climb would be extremely difficult for children given that even adults found it daunting.
The blogger, who goes by the name Unspun and is in his mid-50s, said park authorities should post warnings to notify climbers of difficulty and dangers they could face.
“Right now, the official Mount Kinabalu website cheerily gives the impression that anyone between 10 and 80 who is reasonably fit, can make the climb. That is inaccurate and dangerous information.”
He said a disturbing question was whether Tanjong Katong Primary School authorities did adequate research on the climb before deciding to take the schoolchildren up the mountain.
“Or did they like many others, accept information off the official website?”