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Monday, August 29, 2016

Your contribution counts for Tamil schools

Recently, my team and I visited a Tamil school which is located about 35 kilometres away from Kuala Lumpur. We were there to give away some stationary for the students sitting for UPSR this year and to survey on their other needs as we are planning to ‘adopt’ the school and to look into their well-being until they are self-sustained.
I must say that it was a very thought-provoking visit. Deep thoughts on how we Indians are still very much backward compared to others in this country. No doubt that the number of professionals in our community is also rocketing but what is worrying is as we approach our 59th Independence anniversary, we still have people in our society who are living the pre-independence lifestyle.
We heard teachers complain about ignorant parents - young parents who have no maturity in educating their children. They have neither regards nor interest towards their children’s future or to excel in their lives. These parents are too busy working on making ends meet such that they have no time to even attend their children’s progress report meeting. For them, life is simple and not to be complicated with ambitious thoughts.
Unfortunately, this is not the actual scenario out there, as these children cannot grow up depending on the estate or plantation works. Machines have taken over the workforce leaving them with no choice but to migrate out to nearby cities. With such minimal qualifications, how will they compete and survive?
Children with dyslexia are not treated for betterment, bright students are not encouraged to keep up with their marks, students with sports potential have no platform to showcase their talent - these kids do not see the outer world till they step into secondary school.
And as though the reality is not disturbing enough, the state of the academic force is also awful. Headmasters and headmistresses suffers from lack of options - eg only one English teacher for the entire school, a teacher with Tamil Language option is teaching Bahasa Melayu as there are no Bahasa Melayu optionist in the school.
Teachers not only struggle to teach everything under the sun without looking at it as a burden but also to babysit children who are not taught anything about self-grooming or discipline at home.
In my estimation, Tamil schools must have produced at least 200,000 students in the past 30 years, most of them are very well-established today. If only 50,000 from this output return and contribute to Tamil schools, we will not be facing all this hustle.
Let’s put up this simple calculation:
50,000 x RM 10 x 12 = RM6 million per year
It is needless to beg for financial aids any more. You protect what has produced you. So many things have to be done, from channeling remarkable teachers to inspiring and nourishing the students and organising awareness programmes for the parents.
Lots of funds are being allocated to train students and to prepare them for public exams, but in actual fact, equivalent attention must be given in developing and changing the parents’ mindsets. They must be exposed to what awaits their children upon completing their schooling years.
So much can be done to improve the facilities and creating a conducive environment for the kids. Create alumni and start working on an effective formula to tap this issue. This fund should also be used to track these kids till they graduate and employed.
Open membership to non-Tamil school leavers as well.
Transparency and accountability a must
Transparency and accountability is a must when it comes to fund management.
Most of the Chinese schools are being supported by Chinese themselves to a point where the school starts to invest to gain passive income, this is how their students get the best of what’s in the market, we too should move towards this direction.
Coming back to Rais Yatim’s statement as to only single stream education can instill unity among the next generation, I doubt it.
In single-stream education, can one guarantee that Indian/Chinese children who are born to poor parents will be given this much of attention and pressure to excel by their teachers? Here, the education does not only comprise of the syllabus but deep love and care, genuine intention to see them growing and being at par with others, can this be guaranteed by single-stream education, where students are multiracial and so are the teachers?
I do not wish to highlight many issues where the entire nation had witnessed alleged racial favouritism practiced by teachers, but all these have given us deep fear, very deep fear as the feedback or action from authorities were rather shallow.
Single-stream education is possible only if the following are met:
1. Non-Malays are able to attend Tamil and Chinese classes without having to attend extra classes after school or on weekends.
2. Fair and just amount of holidays is given for each festival and special occasion celebration.
3. School vicinity and it’s facilities to be made available for students from all races to conduct their cultural activities.
4. Inclusivity in all academic, co-curriculum, scholarship offers.
5. Canteen operates as usual during fasting month
6. Sensitivity of all religions is respected by all. And by these, punishments must be made equal to anyone violating this rule.
7. The Hindu Sangam comes to the fore immediately to ensure that all temples conduct religious classes for children to cope up with cultural and spiritual lessons that they miss out in Tamil schools.
If these are guaranteed, single stream education might be considered.
In my personal opinion, it is a needless move. We will all be able to live in harmony if religion and sensitive issues are not made a political agenda. There is really no need for single-stream education. Unity can be restored effortlessly as all of them march into secondary school, all that we need is a solid curricular and genuine teachers to look into it.
I suggest we look into fully residential schools instead. Too many schools with very low students headcount, we can probably look into bringing all together under one roof and provide them with quality education.
All we need now is to bring back our people to the right track. This is a collective responsibility, it’s time we head back and put the basics right. Those of you who get furious when single-stream education is mentioned or suggested, question yourself, what have you done to ensure our Tamil schools are conducive enough for our children to remain there.
The only way to uplift a society is through education, and if this is the state of our primary schools - there is no meaning to 59 years of independence for Indian Malaysians.

S GOPINATH is president of the Malaysian Indian Network of Entrepreneurs Association. -Mkini

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