Raise overseas study allowance, research grants

National 2 minutes, 19 seconds


INADEQUATE allowance for overseas scholarship students, the state of classes and school dormitories that need repair and perceived insufficiency of the allocated budget for research and related works were some concerns raised during the afternoon session of the State Legislative Council meeting yesterday.

In the deliberations over the allocated budget for the Ministry of Education, council member Hj Bakar Mansor noted that some classrooms in several schools are not in the optimal and conducive condition for teaching and learning, adding that school hostels too can be improved, as some students find them uncomfortable and the facilities in need of repair.

The complaint was received by Education Minister Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Lela Dato Seri Setia Hj Awang Abdul Rahman Dato Setia Hj Mohd Taib, who responded that the ministry is striving to carry out repair works where needed. Some schools have already received fixes, while others are still on the waiting list.

He advised school staff to be patient. "Not all repairs can be done immediately, because there are conditions and preparations to be done in accordance with government regulations."

He acknowledged that some hostels are old and in a state of disrepair, but also noted that less and less students are staying at hostels. As such, fixing them up is an expensive venture, which may go to waste if the hostels are not being used.

Another issue brought up by Hj Bakar, a former teacher, was the inadequate allowance for students studying abroad. Parents have complained that their children find it difficult to make ends meet, often having to find part-time jobs to keep afloat.

"An announcement will be made soon regarding this matter," answered the minister, but did not give further details.

Another council member, Dato Paduka Hj Idris Hj Abas, during the meeting voiced his opinion that the budget allocated for research works is not sufficient, thus straining the ability and resources of local researchers to carry their projects out.

He pointed out that even if only a fraction of the total teaching staff at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) is carrying out their research projects, if each of them cost $20,000 to $30,000, then the amount set for research fellowships, academic work and field trips is not enough.

Not so, according to Pehin Dato Hj Awang Abdul Rahman, who said the allocated amount, $451,000, is enough to meet UBD's requirement. However, he added, in case extra funding is needed, the Ministry of Finance has also set aside some amount to fund the research.

"In terms of the budget allocated, it is sufficient," he said. "What is needed is for the institutions to prioritise which research projects deserve funding. We can't provide a large budget if the research works are not feasible."

The Brunei Times