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Education ministry must wake up against safety risk at schools

Education ministry must wake up against safety risk at schools

Posted March. 10, 2015 07:12,   


Korea’s Ministry of Education examined 747 school buildings older than 40 years, across the nation last year. The examination newly identified 35 buildings in Class D, which is given to buildings with a great risk of disaster occurrence. Some of the old primary and secondary school buildings that had been evaluated as safe by examination in 2012 and 2013 turned out to be Class D through last year`s safety examination after the Sewol ferry disaster. This shocking result shows how half-heartedly school officials and public servants under the Education Ministry had been conducting safety examinations so far.

Budget shortage is the main reason that school facilities improvement has been delayed. If an education facility is confirmed as disaster-prone below Class D or E, the Education Ministry provides special grant to support for the building’s repair and renovation. Besides grants from the ministry, city and provincial education offices must bear 50 percent of the total expenses. However, it is not easy for many city and provincial education offices, which are in financial distress due to spending a big chunk of budget to the welfare measures such as the free school meal program, to secure the budget for facility renovation. Korea’s spending in peripheral education services such as school meals, rather than the expenditure to enhance education quality such as improvement of curriculum or facilities, is among the highest in OECD member nations.

The Education Ministry announced, “If these schools are confirmed as Class D by the final safety examination, which is to be performed soon, the ministry plans to allocate budget to renovate those buildings as soon as possible.” But the ministry did not reveal where such Class D facilities are located, fueling concerns of parents over possible safety disaster in the classroom where their kids are learning in spring, the thawing season.

Among primary and secondary schools across the nation, the number of facilities older than 40 years reaches nearly 4,700. Especially, buildings constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, when the number of students spiked due to the baby boom, are suffering from serious deterioration of the buildings because shoddy construction was rampant at that time. President Park Geun-hye made a pledge last year, saying, “The government exerts all-out efforts to ensure safety of the public, which is the basic responsibility of a nation.” The first step of the public safety is to send kids to school without worries over safety.