PETALING JAYA: With the school term set to reopen in March, parents of school going children are concerned about their budgets, given the rising expenses needed to buy items such as uniforms and books.
Education and consumer groups are suggesting ways for the government to ease the financial plight of parents, alongside how the allocations announced in Budget 2023 for the education sector could be fine-tuned to better target needy groups.
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said temporarily waiving the rental costs of bookshops in schools could be one.
He suggested for the initiative to begin when the coming school session starts and continue for a few weeks after.
“Any announcement (on waiving rentals) however must be done before the booklists are released,” he said.
On the Early Schooling Aid or Bantuan Awal Persekolahan (BAP) programme announced in Budget 2023, Mak said the move should be targeted towards the B40 and M40 community instead of it being given to everyone, regardless of parents’ income.
“With a smaller pool of recipients, the amount (received) can be doubled,” he said.
It was announced that RM825mil would be set aside for the BAP programme, which was increased from RM50 to RM150 for each student.
Mak added that the rising costs of school items such as uniforms and stationery was to be expected due to inflation.
In January, Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said the ministry was hoping for extra allocation in the upcoming revised Budget 2023 in order to help strengthen the education system, adding that the additional funds would be channelled to schools nationwide.
Budget 2023, tabled by former Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz in Parliament on Oct 7, saw the Education Ministry getting RM55.6bil.
However, the Budget was not passed as Parliament was dissolved, which paved way for the 15th General Election in November.
It was announced that in the allocation, RM1.2bil would be used to upgrade dilapidated school buildings and infrastructure, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, and for RM777mil to be allocated for the Supplementary Food Plan to ensure students get daily nutritional meals.
A revised Budget 2023 is expected to be tabled on Feb 24.
The academic calendar for the 2023/2024 school session will be from March 19, 2023, to March 9, 2024, for Group A, and from March 20, 2023, to March 10, 2024, for Group B.
Group A comprises Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu while Selangor, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and the three Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya are listed under Group B.