KUCHING, Sept 17 — The Sarawak Education Department is empowered to close schools in areas where the air has become hazardous, Maszlee Malik said today.
The federal education minister said this is in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the ministry in January.
“However, the department will have to get the air quality data from the respective district education in the areas where the schools are situated before making the decision,” he told reporters after visiting SMK Sungai Tapang at Kota Sentosa near here.
“Certainly, they will have to be closed immediately,” he said when asked if the schools in Sri Aman will have to be closed as the Air Pollutant Index (API) has crossed into the red zone categorised as “hazardous”, which is in band of above 300.
Maszlee said schools in the nearby districts like Lubok Antu, Engkilili, Pantu and Betong, will also be closed with immediate effect if the data shows that the API readings have also breached 300.
As at 3pm today, the API reading for Sri Aman district was recorded at 386.
Sri Aman, Lubok, Engkilili and Sri Aman are located near the border with Indonesia’s Kalimantan where forest fires have been raging for weeks.
The API reading for Kuching was recorded at 214 as at 3pm, a level categorised as very unhealthy while the air pollution in most of the districts was recorded at unhealthy level.
Meanwhile, SMK Sungai Tapang was closed today as the API reading for Kuching has been above 200 over the last few days.