KUCHING, Jan 13 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg has stressed that quality education is an important element for Sarawak’s development.
He said this was why the state government increased allocations for scholarships and loans for students to further their tertiary education, including at selected top international universities like Cambridge and the London School of Economics — both in the United Kingdom — and Stanford in the United States.
He said he has revised the premium rate paid by timber companies to Yayasan Sarawak to provide scholarships and loans to students pursuing their tertiary education.
“Now we are increasing the number of students to pursue medicine and also in other selective disciplines, particularly in our preparation for 4.0 Industrial Revolution, something to do with cyber, particularly cyber analytics and also courses on programming and designing which are relevant to digital discipline,” the chief minister said.
“Besides that, we are paying in advance our federal loans of RM1 billion. We paid RM350 million last year and this year, the balance of RM650 million payment in advance to facilitate the construction and repair of our dilapidated schools,” he said in a recent special interview with the local media in conjunction with his third anniversary as chief minister which falls today.
He said education, as well as the upgrading and repairing of dilapidated rural schools, was among the pledges in the state government election manifesto for the 2016 state election.
“We will continue to help the federal government to improve the conditions of rural schools which was mentioned by my predecessor Tok Nan as sekolah repek,” he said, referring to the former chief minister the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem.
Abang Johari said the state government, through the state Public Works Department (JKR), is also building schools to replace some dilapidated rural schools.
“We cannot wait for the federal government. We have to do it on our own. And also, we want to connect electricity or power supply to rural schools from our main grid,” he added.
He said rural schools cannot rely on diesel fuel to generate power and must be connected to the main grid.
He said the state government has allocated RM50 million from the state fund to connect all these schools as recommended by the state Education Department.
“They recommend and then we just connect to the main grid and these schools don’t have to depend on diesel as a power.
“With that sort of environment, at least we can improve the conditions of our rural schools,” he said.
He said the state government is also setting up five international schools based on recognised international syllabuses such as the Cambridge syllabus.
“I hope that these international schools are meant for the best of the best, particularly for students from not well-to-do families, such as fishermen and farmers, who cannot afford to send their children with potential to international schools.
“The schools will be fully residential and are meant for every race as long as they have the qualifications and we hope that these schools can fit into reputed international universities.
“We have made arrangements and Cambridge University will give us two places every year and the London School of Economics will also provide us two places every year.
“Now we are still negotiating with Stanford University in the US to provide places for our students who meet the necessary standards.
“The students will be financed by Yayasan Sarawak to go to these universities, besides sending our students to local universities.
“But sometimes, we need to send the best of the best students to certain reputed universities that are more innovative in nature.
“As you know, the worldwide IT industry has a lot of experts who are coming from Stanford. China is sending its students to Stanford,” he said.