KOTA KINABALU - Parents of hundreds of pupils, who have had to study in "wall-less" classrooms for about year, are hoping that the Prime Minister's timely intervention will soon end their children's predicament.
The past year has seen children at some schools having classes in canopy tents or simple structures comprising nothing more than metal posts, roof and concrete flooring.
Fires destroyed ageing schools of semi-wooden buildings in SK Tampasak in Papar, SK Gadong in Beaufort, SK Simpangan in Kota Marudu, SK Penimbawan in Tuaran and SK Pekan Kiulu in Kiulu within three months in March last year affecting about 1,000 students.
These were among the 10 schools in the state where at least one of the semi wooden blocks were either destroyed or damaged in fires, landslips and floods last year.
Since the fires destroyed the school blocks, the Sabah Education Department had arranged for canopy tents where classes could be held there as a temporary measure.
However a year on, students continue their classes under the tents which SK Pekan Kiulu Parent Teacher Association chairman Jimmy Gohun said was not conducive for learning.
"On sunny days, it gets really hot in the tents and it becomes messy when it rains. So do you expect the children to learn and teachers to teach effectively under those circumstances?" Jimmy asked.
Since the fire on March 3 last year destroyed the school's classroom block, most of the 191 students had their classes in the tents.
To minimise a messy situation when it rains, school officials placed pieces of plywood on the ground but these were now rotting.
"Now that the Prime Minister is aware of the situation of our schools without walls and has said this situation was unacceptable, I hope the Education Ministry can speed up the construction of the school blocks as soon as possible for our children and teachers' sake," Jimmy said.
After noticing a photo of the wall-less classroom at SK Penimbawan in Twitter on Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak ordered Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa to investigate the matter and act on it.
Martin Jinatin, whose children study at SK Tampasak, said not only were the students at the mercy of the elements, but they also suffered from insect stings.
"What is even more worrying is that snakes and scorpions have been spotted in the tent classrooms. This is a dangerous situation," he added.
Sabah Education Department director Datuk Jame Alip, when contacted, said the reconstruction of the school buildings took time.
He said the department had requested funds for the reconstruction work last year and the process involved designing the buildings, calling for tenders and appointing contractors for the construction work.
Following reports of students having to study in temporary structures, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said authorities should monitor the conditions of schools in Sabah and ensure they meet the requirements and standards set by the Education Ministry.
He said he had spoken to Jame and hoped the situation in the affected schools would improve and be rectified as soon as possible.