Speech by Chief Minister of Penang
At The Ground Breaking Ceremony for the New Branch of the School for Mentally Retarded Children in Relau, Penang
on 31st March 2018
First, I would like to congratulate the School for Mentally Retarded Children under the leadership of Dato’ Teh Cheng-Lim for getting a new school built in the Southwest region of Penang island. In 2013, the Association had applied to the State government for a piece of land in this region and we prioritized this request to assist the many children with special needs who require this facility. Representatives from the state government had conducted several audits at the current school before the gifting of this 1.37 acre land was granted valued at RM18 million by the State Government.
The persistence of the school Board in pursing this mission over the years, coupled with the generosity of Tan Sri Datuk Alex Ooi from Ideal Property, to build this new RM6 million school, has made a dream into reality. I am both happy and proud to be here today to help punctuate this special moment for the school at this ground breaking ceremony. Thank you Tan Sri Datuk Seri Alex Ooi for your CSR.
According to the Southwest region population reports, the number of people is increasing by roughly 3,000 per year. In 2009, the population in this region was 190 thousand but by year 2017, this number shot exponentially to 223 thousand people. From this total, 65% of the population lives in the Bayan Lepas area.
The current school located in Dato Keramat with 15 teachers is already at full capacity with 85 students, aged between 7 to 18 years. The school equips these students with “adaptive skills” such as:
1. Conceptual which includes reading, numbers, and communication
2. Social which includes social rules, getting along with others and obeying laws
3. Practical life skills such as feeding, bathing, dressing and occupational skills.
All the above skills will increase the independent functioning of the child to integrate into society, and to instil a sense of self-reliance and self-esteem.
This new school in Relau will be able to enrol up to 180 new students in January 2020, thus allowing those who are currently waitlisted to be given an opportunity for early intervention in their formative years. The new 28,000 square feet school with 15 classrooms will have a computer room, a music room, a recycling centre, a multi-purpose hall and a playground. The school committee is currently trying to raise funds in order to install fittings and equip classrooms, and to hire teachers for the start of the academic year in 2020.
To me, the word “developmental delay” defines some of these children as it suggests that the child is slowly reaching his or her potential rather than having a lifelong developmental disability. I look at these children and I salute their determination to learn new skills. Indeed, these children are “special” and I encourage members of the public and corporations to step forward to donate funds to enable these children to receive the education they deserve.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the many people who have worked tirelessly to make this vision happen and I look forward to seeing this school open in January 2020.