Sarawakians, especially the rural people, are furious that 90 percent of the 500 teachers posted to Sarawak this year are from West Malaysia.
Many said this is causing a great alarm among several quarters in Sarawak, especially the rural population, who have experienced in the past the many incapabilities of the teachers originating from the peninsula.
Only 10 percent of these new teachers are Sarawakians.
Among those that expressed their annoyance to Malaysiakini over this matter were Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA), Dayak National Congress, Gerempong Besai Kristian Jaku Iban (Iban Language Christian Fellowship) and Sarawak PKR.
SDGA president Dusit Jaul said in today’s empowered society, this kind of development was politically unstable. Further, the move was in clear contradiction with Point 8 of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
“SDGA hopes the Ministry of Education will take positive measures to mitigate the situation. This includes the training of more Sarawakians to be teachers.
“In the long run, the government will benefit more by recruiting local Sarawakians as teachers in their local communities,” Dusit said, pointing out that it was not cheap to bring in teachers from outside Sarawak to teach in rural areas.
He said this in reference to a statement by Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Youth chief Liwan Lagang that only 10 percent of the more than 500 teachers posted to Sarawak this year were locals and the rest, people of West Malaysia.
'Ministry must consider local sensitivities'
Liwan called for more local teachers to be posted to the rural areas as this would solve the problem of people coming from outside the state suffering from culture shock.
He also urged the Ministry of Education to employ more qualified Ibans as Iban language teachers in the rural schools.
Liwan (right), who is also Sarawak assistant minister of culture and heritage, said there appeared to be too many West Malaysian Muslim teachers in Christian-majority schools in the rural areas.
“The Ministry of Education must look into local sensitivities when employing people like this. In this regard, we don’t mind local Sarawakian Muslims because they understand the sensitivity of this issue in our local context,” Liwan is reported as saying.
Expressing full support for Liwan, Dusit said: “This does not take into consideration the ability of the Sarawakians to adapt to local environment.
“I have been to some schools in the rural areas where I was informed that West Malaysian teachers find it difficult to adapt to the local environment, especially when it involves a different culture and religion. For this very reason, after a short while, they request to be posted back to West Malaysia.”.
This would definitely affect the quality of learning among the students. The Ministry of Education, Dusit added, must look into this issue seriously, especially with the Dayak wanting to see tremendous improvement in the performance of the rural students.
Dayak National Council (DNC) committee member Patrick Sibat questioned the intention of the Education Ministry in sending West Malaysian teachers to Sarawak, since they were not suited to the local conditions, especially in the rural areas.
There were several cases in the past, where these teachers asked to be transferred back to the peninsula, or they would resign as they could not bear the life in the rural areas, Patrick said, adding that the government would unnecessarily have to spend millions of ringgit to transfer them back to West Malaysia after a short while.
“In fact, the ministry should give priority to Sarawakians. Out of the more than 500 teachers, Sarawakians should constitute 90 percent, instead of a mere 10 percent of the number,” he said.
Patrick said the ministry’s intention of sending West Malaysians to teach in Sarawak was not only against the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement, but that it would also deprive Sarawakians of employment opportunities.
Worries about conversion of Christian children
There were many Sarawakians who had diplomas and degrees, but could not find jobs and have even remained jobless for years.
“Why can’t the ministry train them and send them to schools in their respective villages?” asked Patrick, who is also a council member of the Gerempong Besar Kristian Jaku Iban.
He also expressed worries that sending West Malaysian Muslim teachers to the rural areas of Sarawak, after what had happened in Belaga, Betong, Serian and elsewhere in the state last year .
There were Muslim teachers who allegedly tried to convert the Christian Dayak children to Islam by teaching them Islamic values.
“We are really worried about attempts to convert the students to embrace another religion,” Patrick added.
Meanwhile, Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian (left) called on the ministry to reveal how many Sarawakians had been admitted to teacher training colleges.
“I know many are not admitted even though they are qualified. The ministry should examine that too. I suspect we are less in numbers for a start,” Baru said.
“I have also received complaints that most of them from the peninsula are not qualified as teachers. Many are holding degrees that are not relevant to teaching.
“Complaints too have been received that some are not dedicated to teaching. These are among the areas of my concern,” Baru added.