New Al-Falaah School gift from His Majesty
By Siti Hajar

After years of waiting anxiously, overcoming trials and obstacles, local private school Al-Falaah has finally received its permanent school building, thanks to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam for initiating the project that emphasises the importance of religious teaching in the country.

Seventeen months of planning and construction have led to the official handing over of the school's key yesterday in a ceremony that was held at the school's new premises situated opposite Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah School in Sungai Akar.

The construction of the new school - a gift or Kurnia from His Majesty - started with His Majesty's concern for the school's survival, which encountered numerous administrative issues in the processing of paperwork for a permanent site that led to the school's inability to receive more students.

In a titah that was delivered during a visit to Religious Teaching University College of Seri Begawan in January 2010, the benevolent monarch questioned the reasons behind the delay and pointed out that the school's then location was not ideal to accommodate the growing number of students and that further delays for a permanent site would mean higher cost not just for the school but also the Baitul Mal treasury.

The school, which provides nursery, kindergarten till primary six education, started operations in 1995 and was facing closure in 2004 due to the paperwork woes had it not been for the intervention of the Private Education Division of the Ministry of Education that helped the school in finding a place in Manggis to accommodate its students.

The school's Deputy Principal Hajah Syarifah Mastura binti Syed Zain expressed her gratitude for His Majesty's concern for religious education in the country and described the royal gift as "a dream come true ... like a windfall".

"We've been wanting to have our own building for a long time," she told the Bulletin. "We never expected this."

Prior to His Majesty's announcement for the construction of the new school building, Al-Falaah was, in actuality, awaiting approval to build a new facility in Kg Pulaie but the process, she said, was taking too long.

Taking the delay positively, however, she believes that the circumstances that led to His Majesty's Kurnia was 'destined'.

"Alhamdulillah, we are thankful to Allah and to His Majesty from the bottom of our hearts for providing us with this," she added.

She shared that Al-Falaah students have expressed their excitement on the new school building with some students "asking their parents to drive around" the compound to take a closer look at the facilities whilst parents whose children are studying at the Ban 5 branch have asked for their children to be transferred to Sungai Akar.

With the new school facilities that include new equipment for teaching, she vowed to realise the responsibility that has been bestowed upon them to provide even better quality teaching for its students that incorporates religious and mainstream learning as outlined by the SPN21.

The school's population reached its peak of 1,200 in 2001 but that dwindled down to a mere 295 after the school was told to move from Jalan Ong Sum Ping to areas that have been deemed "too far" for parents to drive to.

The strength has since increased to 700 pupils of which 95 per cent are Bruneians and the remaining students hail from countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and Indonesia whose expat parents are living in the country.

The school's staff comprise 75 per cent local with the remaining teachers coming from Syria, Egypt, Sudan and Indonesia who teach the Arabic language, al-Quran recital and religious teaching.

The Kg Pulaie branch will be closed down when its students start transferring to the new school building as of the next school year in January, whilst the Ban 5 branch will continue to operate.

Yesterday's key handing over ceremony, simultaneous to the handing over of His Majesty's Warkah to the school, commenced with a mass Subuh prayer and recital of the Qasidah and doa, in the school's new auditorium that was participated by senior government officers and the school's staff led by the State Mufti Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Haji Awang Abdul Aziz bin Juned.

A meeting was then held that was chaired by Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Mohd Nawawi bin Allahyarham Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Haji Awang Mohd Taha, Private and Confidential Secretary to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam in his capacity as the Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Al-Falaah School Construction Project.

As a symbolic gesture, the handing over of the school key was passed from the contractor to the building's architect to the Ministry of Development's Technical and Professional Permanent Secretary in his capacity as the Project Team Management Head.

The key was then passed on to Pehin Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Mohd Nawawi who then passed it to the State Mufti and, finally, to the school's principal Syed Hamid bin Haji Syed Ibrahim.

The State Mufti ended the day's event with the chanting of "Allahu Akbar" thrice that was echoed by all those present including a number of Cabinet Ministers. - Borneo Bulletin (11th September 2011)