His Majesty makes surprise visits, hears plights and concerns
By Siti Hajar

Staff and students of the country's oldest Arabic schools in the Brunei-Muara District yesterday shared their professional and personal concern on the plight of their respective institutions with His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during the monarch's surprise visit yesterday morning.

His Majesty, upon consenting to tour the schools of Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit Arabic Religious Secondary School for Girls (SUAMPRIPAD), the Arabic Preparatory School of Bandar Seri Begawan and the Hassanal Bolkiah Arabic Boys' Secondary School along Jalan Tutong, spoke to several members of staff and students as part of the three-hour visit and queried on the state of the facilities, manpower as well as the future of the students' education.

An interview with some of those His Majesty spoke to explained that they had shared some of the schools' shortcomings and how such issues are becoming a burden to the growing number of pupils.

Science teachers from two of the schools, who wished to remain anonymous, had told His Majesty that the inadequacy of some laboratory equipment, facilities and classrooms are making it difficult to have a comprehensive learning environment that has entailed limiting the number of students into science laboratories and instead conduct such classes at different intervals with no more than 15 students at a time.

Safety equipment such as a gas chamber and ventilator aimed at safeguarding the students' welfare as well as the environment during science experiments, one of the teachers shared, have yet to be made available.

Another teacher, meanwhile, shared with the media that His Majesty had expressed his concerns on the future of the students with emphasis on the ways to keep such students, who are considered to be among the brightest in the country following the passing of mandatory aptitude tests prior to being accepted, in the field of Arabic education. Though noting that only a "small percentage" of students continue into higher tertiary education in this particular area, "it isn't too bad now", the teacher stated "seeing that we have the Seri Begawan Religious Teaching College University and the Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University".

The monarch was also heard highlighting the need for more school wardens when His Majesty was made to understand that the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Damit Arabic Religious Secondary School for Girls had only two such staff at the campus. His Majesty, according to one of the staff who was addressed by the ruler, had asked who would be responsible should a situation arise that is in need of attention.

His Majesty was accompanied by various government ministers and their respective staff as the monarch was led by the schools' principals and deputy principals.

Among the areas that His Majesty scrutinised included the various primary and secondary classes, where the monarch was enthusiastically greeted by the young faces, the staffroom, exercise fields and other areas. - Borneo Bulletin (10th February 2012)