Struggling school canteen operators breathe a sigh of relief

PETALING JAYA: The Association of School Canteen Operators has welcomed the move to exempt canteen operators from paying rent for six months.

Its secretary Siti Normah Md Desa said the announcement from the Education Ministry has come as a big relief to the 10,000 canteen operators in the country.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen schools shut for a prolonged period, at least 30% of these operators have closed their businesses.

“Many are struggling because they can’t operate and as a result, they have lost their income. Some took to operating from their homes,” she said.

Even though canteen operators had to shut their businesses during periods of school closure, Siti Normah said they still had to pay their rent.

On Sunday, the ministry said it would also grant an exemption for rental of the canteen and premises or space for a period of six months, from July to December 2021.

The ministry also said service providers at government schools affected by the movement control order would be paid in full or have their contracts extended.

For food services, the ministry said it would extend the contract of services to the contractor involved, which will take into account the period in which its services have been affected as a result of the implementation of movement restriction.

Siti Normah said this, along with the financial assistance of RM1,000 to all registered canteen operators under the National People’s Well-Being and Economic Recovery Package (Pemulih), would tide them over.

“Many don’t understand the struggle this group of people go through.

“Schools are still closed, and even when it reopens, there will be strict standard operating procedures canteen operators have to follow.

“This impacts their income,” she said.

A canteen contractor, who only wanted to be known as Zack, said that while the move would be helpful, operators still can’t run their businesses and many have surrendered their contracts.

He said this was because they couldn’t afford to pay their other monthly liabilities, such as water and electricity bills, which are paid separately from rent.

“Many of us are under pressure,” he said.

Suriani Sharif, who sells western food in SMK Damansara Utama here, welcomed the move and said that her school had stopped collecting rent from her over a year ago.

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