Amid accusations of a political ploy ahead of state elections due to be called anytime now, some 2,000 teachers in Sarawak were left fuming on news that they had suddenly been transferred just as school reopened today.
“We are shocked at such desperate action by the Taib Mahmud administration. It looks like despite all their talk that Sarawak will remain a BN fixed deposit, they are very afraid of the Pakatan Rakyat,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told reporters.
According to teachers in Miri, the directive from the Education Ministry will take effect immediately. As such, the transfers could create chaos in the classrooms. Many of those affected claimed they have to move from one end of the state to the other, and to the rural areas.
Not only was the transfer done at such a short notice, but many of the affected teachers specialised in important subjects such as English and Bahasa Malaysia. The affected schools were also unsure as to who would be filling the void because the heads were not given prior notice.
“This is the strangest part. Those who are transferred are mostly those from the urban or the areas where the BN is expected to lose because of the boiling-over of issues on corruption and mass pilferage. I guess they will be replaced by those from BN-stronghold areas. We are very disappointed that for political survival, Taib can just turn upside-down our children’s education,” Ignatius Chong, a PKR stalwart in Miri, told reporters.
The Sarawak Teachers Union (STU) had been inundated by calls from affected teachers and from others worried about what may happen next.
Meanwhile, according to the Star, STU president William Gani Bina said that the 38,000 teachers in the state were speaking up over this “messy affair” and the manner in which the ministry had conducted the exercise.
“They have families and have been serving in their present schools for a long time. They were not consulted over the transfers,” Gani said.
“The Education Ministry used the term ‘redeployment’ but these teachers were being relocated all over Sarawak.
“Sarawak is very big. If you transfer someone from Kuching to Limbang or to a school in the rural area, it is like transferring that person from one end of the peninsula to the other.
“Many schools are already facing a serious shortage of experienced teachers, especially in English. This transfer is very chaotic and will cause a lot of problems for the affected teachers, schools and students.”
Gani said he had urged Deputy Education director Datuk Norizan Hashim to look into the matter.
“I told Norizan that this was a very serious matter because of the unique geographical and logistical set-up of the state.
“The ministry cannot simply enforce a transfer of teachers en masse without taking into account the impact.”
Gani said STU wanted experienced and senior teachers to stay at their present postings.
It also asked for an assurance that Sarawakian teachers would not be transferred to other states, he stressed.
“If these teachers are not happy, they would not be able to teach well and their students would be affected. Worse if these affected teachers resigned,” he said.
Asked on Norizan’s response, Gani said the matter would be referred to the ministry’s highest authority.
There are some 38,000 teachers serving in 162 primary and 177 secondary schools in Sarawak.