The Ministry of Education's target is to refurbish some 5,400 schools nationwide this year through its RM1 billion special fund allocation known as the Special Stimulus Package or Pakej Rangsangan Khas (PRK).
Its secretary-general Datuk Dr Rosli Mohamed said this was 1,150 schools more than the total listed for refurbishment works under the same fund last year.
Rosli said the list also includes boarding schools for the first time as they were not part of the project last year.
"We are still fine-tuning the list as of now but we are anticipating the number to be around 5,400 schools nationwide, which includes 67 boarding schools as well for the first time," Rosli said in an interview here.
The special fund which was first introduced under the 2012 Budget aims at providing additional funds to upgrade and refurbish government schools of various segments including public as well as government-aided schools.
Of the RM1 billion allocation, RM900 million was allocated to the Ministry of Education while the remaining RM100 million went to Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM) for the same purpose.
"For this year, the same amount was allocated under the 2013 Budget, and this time we are disbursing the allocation according to school categories.
"Mission schools, government-aided schools, Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools as well as boarding schools will each receive an allocation of RM100 million a year whereas the remaining RM400 million will be channeled to national schools," Rosli said.
Last year, a total of 4,250 schools nationwide were listed as having to undergo the refurbishment process. Of the number, 1,640 have completed the process as of now.
Rosli said refurbishment works cover structural and non-structural scopes.
"The structural scope involves major upgrading or construction works, including the building of a new block whereas non-structural involves minor repair works like fixing of doors and the ceiling," Rosli said.
"This year we will also expand the non-structural scope to cover other areas like termite control, the fire system as well as sewage system," said Rosli, adding that a special committee had been formed to monitor the implementation and progress of the project.
"I myself will be chairing the special committee where we will visit the schools and provide a report on the progress every three months to ensure that we are not behind schedule," he added.
When asked about the selection process, Rosli said a special study is conducted beforehand to identify schools that require refurbishment before the selected schools are short-listed.
This is to ensure that schools that are in dire need are given the priority, considering that the total number of schools nationwide exceeds 10,000.
The PRK, which is part of the Private Financing Initiative (PFI) framework was introduced to ensure proper funds are allocated to refurbish schools and upgrade its facilities.
It also aims to provide a more conducive learning environment for both teachers and students in line with the government's vision to elevate the standard of the national education system.
Previously Rosli said, school maintenance and refurbishment expenditure was obtained from the operating allocation allocation under the ministry.
"The operating allocation fund covers a wide scope of financing including salaries for teachers and ministry staff which comprise 544,000 personnel.
"Through the PRK, school upgrading and refurbishment works can be carried out more efficiently and we will no longer depend on the operating allocation as it is very limited," Rosli said.
He added that the government, through the Ministry of Education was always committed towards improving the education system from all aspects including the wellbeing of teachers and students.
MUHAMMED AHMAD HAMDAN | firstname.lastname@example.org New Straits Times General 24 April 2013