KUCHING: Revisions have been made to the proposed schools for the children of Indonesian oil palm plantations in Sarawak.
The state government will not allow “Sekolah Indonesia” to be built. Instead, the Welfare, Women and Family Development Ministry, which is in charge of education for the state government (as education is a federal matter), has decided to allow “community learning centres” (CLCs) to be established within the estates.
So far, 16 estate owners, mostly in Bintulu and Miri, have expressed interests to operate the CLCs for their workers’ families. The number of possible pupils from the 16 estates is around 770. State officials will visit a model CLC on Jan 20.
Its Minister, Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, said other revisions included a requirement for CLC approvals to be held by the Malaysian plantation owners.
“It can only be owned and operated by the estate owners. What is the implication of this change? Well, accountability is on the owner. It’s part of their corporate social responsibility for their workers’ welfare,” Fatimah told reporters here yesterday.
“It also means if anything happens, it’s easier for us to tell, liaise with our own people,” she added.
Last year, Indonesia President Joko Widodo sealed a deal with the Malaysian Government to extend education to the children of Indonesian workers in Sarawak and Sabah’s oil palm industry. According to Indonesian media, there could be as many as 51,000 children of Indonesian parents in the two east Malaysian states, of which up to 30,000 might not have access to basic education.
Fatimah said Malaysia-Indonesia talks began during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency.
“It was a government-to-government negotiation. Indonesia asked for it. They asked for Sekolah Indonesia to be set up, which would have been funded by them with their curriculum. We (Sarawak) learnt from Sabah, where Sekolah Indonesias have been set up. We made a decision to allow CLCs but not Sekolah Indonesia,” she said.
The setting up of the CLCs was “good”, she said, as education was a basic human right, when asked about public concerns.
The Sarawak government would take incremental steps on the issue, she said. A taskforce has been set up and will visit CLCs up and running in mid-year to sort out issues.
The taskforce includes the Immigration Department, Labour Department, federal Education Ministry and the state Welfare body.
Other revisions, Fatimah said, included a requirement for Bahasa Melayu, History, Islamic Studies or Moral to be taught at the CLCs. Children of Malaysian workers working in the estates will not be allowed to be enrolled.
“However, we might offer some flexibility on a case-by-case basis. It is my own personal belief that children of Malaysians will benefit much more by studying at Malaysian schools.”