By STEPHEN THENstephenthen@thestar.com.my
MIRI: Schoolhildren who be-came victims of disasters like fires and floods are often left in a lurch because there is lack of information from the local welfare agencies and authorities on how they could obtain financial aid, said Sarawak Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, Datin Fatimah Abdullah.
She expressed her disappointment that such needy pupils were not given enough attention.
“Students affected by such disasters can seek financial assistance from a trust fund set up by the Education Ministry to help such kids.
“These students can apply for aid from the fund through their schools, welfare bodies or the local authorities. However, it is sad to note that many of the students affected did not know how to see such assistance,” she said after visiting a group of about 100 people in a squatter colony in Pujut Corner whose houses were razed by a fire two weeks ago.
Fatimah wants the state welfare and local council to rectify the weaknesses in the system and take a pro-active role in helping the students to ensure the children’s education is not disrupted by the tragedy.
Two city councillors also ac-companied her during the visit to the settlement. They will act as liaison officers for the council.
Fatimah said there were about 1,000 squatter families in Pujut and many of them were living in wooden and zinc shacks. Fires often break out at the squatter settlement.
During her visit there, some of the fire victims also told Fatimah they were made homeless as they had no other means to find alternative housing facilities after their homes were destroyed.
She said although the state government had offered the victims a chance to buy or rent a low-cost flat, many of the victims could not afford such offer.
She said the state government would look into the victims’ plight as soon as possible.