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29 juli 2013

National PTA wants study on telco towers in school

KUALA LUMPUR (July 29): The National Parents and Teachers Association (NPTA) wants the Ministry of Education (MOE) to halt the erection of all telecommunication towers in and around schools until a study is made on the health effects on the children and the community in the vicinity.

Datuk Ali Hasan, who is chairman of NPTA, which represents more than 10,000 PTAs of schools nationwide, said that if there are indeed detrimental health effects due to the erection of telco towers in the vicinity of schools, it would be deemed most improper that parents were not consulted.

''If the study (which we are asking for now) proves that there are indeed health hazards to the children and the community from the electro magnetic radiation from such telco towers, then the ministry of education must scrap the building of such towers completely,'' said Ali.

The telco towers are being erected under the 1BestariNet, an ambitious project by the MOEto catapult the schools of Malaysia into IT-dom.

Under the project awarded to telecommunications company YTL, there will be high-speed broadband based on 4G technology, with a minimum speed of 4Mbps to 20Mbps, covering 9,889 schools throughout the country. To achieve this, telco towers have to be erected in schools throughout the country.

According to the Education Ministry, in a Parliamentary reply, ''as at May 31, 2013, 1,503 1BRIS (1BestariNet Receiver Integrated System) towers have been built and are in operation, while 281 have been built but not yet operational. Fifty-three 1BRIS towers are still under construction''.

YTL director Yeoh Seok Hong has also been quoted as saying that the ''towers going up at the schools won't just provide wireless Internet connectivity at the school, but in surrounding areas too.''

As at June 5, this year, 7,139 schools have already been equipped with 1BestariNet. The cost of the project is RM663 million for a contract lasting two-years and six months beginning January 2012, of which RM463 million or 69% has been disbursed.

Ali, who said he speaks for all parents and teachers, is surprised that the towers have already been built without a study on the implications on the health of communities around it.

When told how much had already been spent to erect the telco towers and that MOE might be reluctant to undertake a study now, Ali said that the cost factor is ''immaterial''.

''No matter at what cost, the health of our children is our priority. We will send a letter to the MOE to push for them to start the study. It is high time that MOE looks into the health hazard issue rather than the profits from the project,'' said Ali.

The 1BestariNet project has come under fire from the opposition for being given to YTL without an open tender being called for the project.

Meanwhile, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairperson Datin Azimah Noor Abdul Rahim said that while she supports a study on the hazards of the telco towers, she also called on the MOE to ensure that the schools need not fork out more money to make it work.

''In my neighbourhood, they have raised these towers. We did ask them, (about the hazards) but then again, dangers are everywhere. We use our handphones although we know that it may cause brain damage, we even give our handphones for our children to play with. We already have Wi-Fi. Yes, I will push for a study but as we do not know enough (of the health hazards of telco towers), for now, we must see it as a necessary evil.

''In the 30 years of education, nothing has changed except for the green board to white board in classrooms. We should then not lose out in technology, but we must protect our children in any way, including data privacy,'' said Noor Azimah.

She further pointed out that her main worry now is not whether the telco towers pose a health hazard but whether the whole project would be completed fully and not shortchange the schools.

''There is supposed to be complete connectivity but in some schools, it is not. I hope the schools do not have to fork out more money to get that complete connectivity. Also, when the company (YTL) does make money, would the school get any of it? The project should not be about making money,'' said Noor Azimah.


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