KOTA KINABALU, Jan 15 ― Hundreds of students are risking their life commuting to school in small boats without using life jackets in Pitas, the northern part of Sabah.

A Facebook user ‘A Korn Korn’, has shared the plight of these students on the social media due to inaction by the authorities for over a year.

“To the authority concerned, we have no choice but to viral this case because it has been more than a year of inaction … please, where is the government and the NGO (non-government organisation) to give us a bigger boat and safety jackets. Don’t wait until it is too late,” wrote the user.

‘A Korn Korn’ further explained that the Primary One students (in the pictures shared on Facebook) were on their way to their school, SK Mangkapon, Pitas.

When contacted by The Borneo Post yesterday, Bengkoka assemblyman Harun Durabi pointed out that the river plays an integral role in connecting the rural communities of Pitas to the outside world.

Harun said that his constituents have used the river to communicate with the outside world since time immemorial.

“That is how it has been all these while,” he said.

He explained that many of the villages in his constituency are unreachable by road, and so many communities reside by the riverbank.

Harun, who is also the Deputy Rural Minister for Sabah, said that he is working towards securing funds to get bigger boats to serve his community as well as life jackets for the school children who have to use the boats to go to school.

“I will have to get the exact number of school children for the safety jackets. I will visit them soon,” he said when asked to comment on the plight of the school children of Pitas.

A commenter of the Facebook post, ‘Antinhumairah Osman’ shared that she had experienced an incident where the pump boat she was on rammed into the mangrove swamp and everyone on board had to jump off the boat.

“I didn’t know how to swim …Luckily I was able to hold on to the root of the mangrove tree, or else I would have died then,” she said.

She said that she was still a student at that time.

She added that there used to be a bridge but cannot be used anymore since it was damaged.

Recently, pictures of students from SK Sibuga Besar at Kampung Nelayan Tengah in Sandakan crossing a dilapidated suspension bridge on their first day of school went viral recently.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin had instructed the Sandakan Municipal Council to fix the bridge to ensure the safety of all users. ― Borneo Post