Costly Renovation of ‘Irreparable’ School Building Stirs Outrage

By Min Aung Khine 24 May 2018

SITTWE, Rakhine State — Locals in Rakhine State’s Sittwe Township have voiced anger over the costly renovation of a school building after it was found to be structurally flawed.

The building was built in 1885 during the colonial period and used initially as a basic education high school. Then it served as a regional college, which was upgraded to Sittwe University in 1996.

After a new university campus was built in 2016, the university handed the building over to the Rakhine State Education Office, which is under the Basic Education Department of Education Ministry.

The state education office awarded a tender to Assition-1 Co in October 2016 to undertake major renovations of the building for it to be used as a school building of No.1 Basic Education High School Sittwe.

The company completed the renovations, which cost over 200 million kyats ($150,000) granted from Rakhine State education funds, in October 2017.

But later the owner of Assition-1 Co said that the building might collapse at any time as it has exceeded its service life, said U Sein Hla Tun, deputy director of the Rakhine State Education Office.

“We don’t know if the building was checked before it was put out to tender for repair. Only the former [Rakhine] state education officer U Aung Kyaw Tun [who invited the tender] would know that,” he said.

The office has asked the Basic Education Department to check if the building is safe to be used as a school facility, U Sein Hla Tun said.

Rakhine locals have expressed anger over the irresponsibility of the local state education office and the company, calling the repair work a waste of public funds.

“Over 200 million kyats was spent just to improve the look of the building. Why didn’t they check the strength of the building first? After all the renovation work is done, they say the building is dangerous. It is a waste of public funds without responsibility and accountability,” Ko Soe Naing, a civil society member of Sittwe and an alumnus of Sittwe University, told The Irrawaddy.

Some students were injured when parts of the building collapsed about 20 years ago. The alumni of Sittwe University, however, want to keep the building within the university precinct.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.