EXCLUSIVE BY BORNEOTODAY TEAM
LABUAN – A sincere effort to provide a warm meal to starving students of the Labuan Matriculation College (KML) could be scuttled even before it enters its third day Wednesday as witless officials attempt to block the effort by a team of volunteers.
Probably embarrassed by the fact that a good portion of its students go hungry every day because they have not received their monthly allowance (for over two months now) these officials are against the distribution of the packed food.
And of all the reasons, or excuses they could come out with, KML administrators are worried that the food being served by this genuine group of Labuanite volunteers, could be contaminated and affect the health of the students concerned.
But all this could have been avoided had not the Ministry of Education not suspended the meagre monthly allowance of RM250 that is provided to the students throughout a 10-month study or two semesters.
Students for the 2016/17 session intake only received the allowance for the month of June and July, and they have not received the allowance since then.
Volunteers from Labuan, concerned with the welfare of the students who come from various backgrounds and religious beliefs, mainly from rural Sabah and Sarawak, are willing to chip in to lend a helping hand.
“The least we could do is to provide them with a hot meal, preferably dinner, on a daily basis till this crisis is over,” a concerned parent told BorneoToday Wednesday, “but it seems that the management of KML is indifferent to the situation.
“They keep denying that the situation is under control. For what, to save their bosses the embarrassment. Everyone in Labuan knows that the poorer KML students are not getting enough food.”
He said he was told that a group of volunteers from a local church had started serving a packed meal to the less fortunate students since Monday, but were confronted by KML officials who told them to stop.
“I was not there personally but I was informed that the KML management are not happy (with the church volunteers). They prefer to see the students get ill due to lack of food,” said the man who has two college-going children of his own.
It is understood that the group was told to stop distributing food at the car-park of the college. No reasons were given.
Efforts to contact this volunteer group did not materialise. They shied away from our photographer and declined to talk, with polite smiles.
On Saturday KML principal Sawang @ Rizal Amit said the students, who are from the low-and moderate-income households, were receiving daily meal assistance from the management for breakfast up to dinner.
“The suspension of the allowance by the Ministry of Education is only temporary and we have our appeal to the ministry to expedite the disbursement,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama, the national news agency.
KML currently accommodates some 2,500 students from various states in the country.
Sawang also claimed that the KML management, with the assistance of its cafeteria provides the daily meal to the students in need… and some 100 students were chosen to receive the assistance.
But he did appeal corporate bodies to provide financial assistance to help ease the financial burden of the students.
Efforts to reach Sawang Wednesday did not materialise.
Students who were approached by BorneoToday while collecting their food packs on Tuesday also declined to give their comments for fear of retribution by the KML management.
Social media remarks, especially among Labuan groups, has been rife especially since last week. (BorneoToday however wishes to clarify that we have been unable to ascertain the reliability of the comments).
“Allowan kena gantung (allowance suspended), went one whatsapp message. “What is (deputy Education Minister) Datuk Mary Yap doing about this,” went another message.
“Is she even aware of the situation,” said yet another.
Another message read: “KML dari dulu ada saja masalah….kencing tikus…masalah air dan sekarang gantung elaun” (there has been frequent problems at KML … rat urine, dry taps and now no allowances).
“Why Wld the canteen operator give out free meals?” another message on social media claimed. “There are no such thing as free meals”.
“Allahuakhbar…sekiranya sehingga begitu amatlah dikesali….kalau benar sehingga begitu…KML harus wujudkan pantri terbuka di kampus seperti yang dibuat di beberapa kolej dan universiti lain.”
Another message even hinted that some of the unfortunate studentswere forced to wait till the cafeteria closed so that they could hope to get the leftover food.
“Sekiranya benar sama sama lah kita membantu mengumpul dana untuk pelajar yang memerlukan nya.. tak kira dari mana asal usul pelajar berkenaan … (If this is true, then let us start a fund for the needy students, not caring their origins).”
“Sawang is not entertaining our calls,” claimed yet another Whatsapp user.
“Ramai yg beli nasi dan kuah je…mkn pun 1 kali srhari sbb parent mmg x mampu bg duit (Many of them buy rice and gravy only once a day; their parents cannot afford to give them any pocket money).
BorneoToday will make attempts to contact Labuan Member of Parliament, Datuk Rozman Isli, and Mary Yap later Wednesday to get not only their comments, but also what they plan to do to alleviate this problem.