‘No more hanky-panky’


WITH six months to go till the year is up, the Education Ministry, which received the largest budget, has set out to ensure that the allocation reaches intended recipients.

In an interview with StarEdu on May 9, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek assured Malaysians that Budget 2023 (see infographics), passed two months ago, would be coordinated carefully and disbursed transparently “for the benefit of our children”.

“Some people call us the ‘billion dollar club’ because we received the biggest allocation but it is a huge responsibility. We have 10,000 schools, over five million children and almost half a million teachers under the ministry.

“The Preschool Food Aid, or Bantuan Makanan Prasekolah (BMP), has taken a big chunk of the budget because it is given to every child regardless of their parents’ income.

“We’ve also increased funding for the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT) by increasing its value per child and including preschools to address multidimensional poverty, especially in terms of malnutrition,” she said, adding that the most important, and biggest chunk, of the budget was channelled to dilapidated schools.

“We want our schools to be safe. These buildings are between 15 and 20 years old,” she said, adding that RM920mil will be used to ensure that all projects are completed.

All schools, she said, would receive RM20mil for gotong-royong because such activities help inculcate unity and teach students how to care for their communities.

She added that the ministry is very serious about strengthening the command of Bahasa Melayu.

This, she said, was evident by the RM20mil allocation for Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), together with the Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia (ITBM) and Yayasan Karyawan.

“This is a very big project which we want them to focus on.

“We need to create an environment for the community to promote and enhance knowledge, as well as the use of the language.”

Fadhlina gave her “personal guarantee” that schools and education institutions would receive 50,000 laptops announced under the budget by the end of the year.

“We are still in the procurement process because there are procedures to follow, but we will deliver.

“Everything we do is questioned because of legacy issues. There is a trust deficit.

“Unlike before, we have a very transparent procedure – no more hanky-panky. There will be tight scrutiny.”

While Budget 2023, which allocated a total of RM55.2bil to the Education Ministry, addresses the necessary and important things, such as school infrastructure, Teach For Malaysia (TFM) chief executive officer Chan Soon Seng said more needs to be invested in the quality of education – for example, by enhancing teachers’ professional development.

“Quality education is the most powerful tool for all children to realise their potential.

“When it comes to budget utilisation, we hope to see more transparency in how the money is spent, whether it is being spent well and the outcomes of those investments,” he said.

Urging Fadhlina to lobby for a bigger allocation, beyond the emolument amount, National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Aminuddin Awang said more funding for infrastructure development is needed, especially for digital education.

Universiti Malaya Education Faculty senior lecturer and teacher-trainer Assoc Prof Dr Zuwati Hasim stressed the need for funds to maintain infrastructure.

There are many old schools in both urban and rural areas that require immediate attention, she said.“Please also look into funds for the management and disposal of expired chemical supplies from the school labs as they could cause risk and harm to the school community.

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