Religious institutions under royal scrutiny
By Azlan Othman & Azrol Azmi

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday morning made surprise visits to two Arabic institutions and a college univer-sity situated in mile one Jln Tutong, the second such visit in recent years.

His Majesty's first stop was at Raja Isteri Pg Anak Damit Arabic Girls Secondary School (SUAMPRIPAD) followed by Hassanal Bolkiah Arabic Boys Secondary School and Seri Begawan Religious Teachers College University.

Also present were Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin, and Permanent Secretary at the Ministry, Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Rahman.

At SUAMPRIPAD, His Majesty was greeted upon arrival by the principal of the school, Datin Hjh Piah Bte Saat, and later toured the facilities and classrooms.

SUAMPRIPAD, built in 1966 and used a year later, currently has 441 students studying from Form 1 to 5 and 81 teaching staff. There are 127 students living in the hostel.

Meanwhile, at Hassanal Bolkiah Arabic Boys Secondary School (SMALHB), which also accommodates female students taking lower and upper six classes, the monarch enquired on the menu for the students' meals, the population of male and female students in each classroom taking subjects like Arabic, 'Tauhid' and critical thinking.

The students told the Bulletin that His Majesty also enquired about their upcoming examination date and whether they are confident to do well in the exams. Some of the students were revising for their examination yesterday afternoon. The ruler also took a closer look at the facilities available and the preparation of students who have been practising for a debate competition among schools and colleges.

Throughout the visit, His Majesty was briefed by the school's principal, Ustazah Hjh Asmah Hj Rendah. SMALHB was built in 1964 and officiated in 1967. It has 305 students taking lower and upper six classes. The school has a teaching staff of around 60.

The monarch then toured the Seri Begawan Religious Teachers College University, where the ruler was greeted by senior officer, Awg Hj Abdul Rahim bin Gantang.

ICT room was one of the areas the monarch toured before a closed-door briefing session with the staff of the school. His Majesty was briefed on courses offered by the college university, its plans and preparations.

The benevolent ruler in his 1428 Hijrah titah early this year announced the upgrading of Seri Begawan Religious Teachers College (which has been in existence for more than 30 years) to that of a University College.

The first undergraduate intake will start their courses in August 2007. Programmes offered include Diploma for Religious Teaching, and a Bachelors Degree in Religious Teaching for in-service religious teachers.

At least an "A" level or an STPUB (Brunei Higher Religious Studies) qualification is needed for entry into the college university degree teaching programme. The degree level programme is offered to new students and to those who have taught for certain years and have an STPUB or "A" level qualifications.

Graduates of teaching college certificate who have served for a year can take the teaching programme diploma level. The college university in the early stages will use the Seri Begawan Teachers College campus.

The Seri Begawan Teachers College has produced 3,697 trained teachers, most of whom are teaching at government religious schools. Currently, students at the University College are taking their week-long semester break while others are currently undergoing teaching practice at the school. (9th March 2007)