Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tamil School in Shoplot

A gov’t school in a double-storey shoplot
Yoges Palaniappan

Aug 10, 07 12:21pm

For the past 15 days, a Tamil school in Lukut, Negeri Sembilan has been using a shoplot as its official building, earning curios, disbelief glances from onlookers and a different experience for the pupils.

SJK (T) Ladang Sungai Salak’s staff and students moved into the shoplot on July 26 - believed to be a first in Malaysia - while awaiting for a land grant from the government.

Currently, the school, comprising of 60 students from primary one to four and six teachers, has four classrooms, a canteen, and uses a nearby field for assemblies and physical education classes.

And for neighbour, it has a welding shop. According to eye-witnesses, a balai raya (multi-purpose hall) nearby looked much better than the government school.

When contacted, headmaster M Krishnamoorthy explained the dire situation which prompted the school to move into the shoplot.

He said that the school was originally located in the nearby Siliau estate.

“When the estate was closed down in the 1990s, estate workers started to move out to the nearby town and the number of students in the school dwindled,” said Krishnamoorthy.

He added that the school staff and students had been squatting at SJK (T) Bandar Springhill, Siliau since 2002 following the decreasing number of students in his school.

“We were occupying three classrooms in the school. However, when the population of that school increased, we had to find other avenues,” he said, adding that it was then the school tried to get a relocation approval from the Education Ministry.

“Despite numerous attempts, the Education Ministry never approved our application, they want us to remain in SJK (T) Bandar Springhill.

Bigger plans

As such, he added, the school administration approached Port Dickson state assemblyperson T Rajagopalu and parliamentary secretary for Education Ministry P Komala Devi for a relocation approval from the ministry.

“With Rajagopalu and Komala’s assistance, we got the approval to shift to this shoplot in Lukut town,” he said.

The school, with the help from Rajagopalu, collected RM80,000 from the public and converted the shoplot into a fully air-conditioned school building.

Rajagopalu, when contacted, said that the school is now fighting for a three-acre government land nearby the school.

“Initially we started with three students, but now we have 60 students after moving into an Indian majority area.

“Next year, we’re expecting 120 students as we’re going to bring in primary five and six,” he said.

The state education department was unavailable to comment if it was proper for a school to be operating from a shoplot in a business area.

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