by Jimmy Adit
OUTSPOKEN: When Sarawak PKR vice-chairman See Chee How said he doubted the government’s ability to manage, monitor and control community learning centres (CLCs) in the state, he was actually voicing the concern of many Sarawakians.
There is no way the state government can when it has no power over education. That power was handed over to the federal government in the 1970s by then chief minister Abdul Rahman Yakub.
Since then, education matters have come under the exclusive purview of the federal government, which unfortunately, has been unable to satisfy the state’s many requests for basic infrastructural needs, qualified teachers and maintenance of rural schools.
It would be naïve not to think that this failure on the part of the central government has to do with politics – Putrajaya politics.
Education after all has been deeply politicised by the central government, so whatever money set aside for education in Sarawak is a means to a political end for Putrajaya.
More than 50 years since the formation of Malaysia, and perhaps about 40 years since education was taken away from Sarawak, the state is still bemoaning its dilapidated school buildings and structures that are rotting away underneath even as school children above go through their morning routine of singing Negaraku, hardly realising they are dicing with death.
A conversation Sarawak PKR vice-chairman Boniface Willy Tumek had with a district education officer friend as reported by a Sarawak newspaper shows why education in Sarawak is in such a sorry state.
The officer said at least four factors contributed to the ‘rot’ in education in Sarawak and Sabah – lack of suitable facilities, questionable policies relating to placement of teachers, woefully insufficient administrative structure and setting of test papers.
The officer pointed out that with three months into 2015, there were only nine months left for the first wave of the implementation of the National Education Blueprint (2013-2025).
“The first wave specifically said all dilapidated schools in Sarawak (some 800 schools) will be fully restored into good condition by end of 2015. He (PPD) went on to say that any PPD will tell you that this is not going to happen. And we all know that the physical state of schools affect the morale of teachers and students alike,” Boniface said.
The officer spoke of newly trained teachers from Malaya being placed in Sarawak and Sabah schools to make up for the deficit caused by insufficient number of trained local teachers.
According to the officer, these teachers will normally be transferred back to Malaya after three years, creating an experienced pool of teachers in the peninsula but leaving a perpetual vacuum in Sarawak and Sabah.
On the weak administrative structure, the officer explained that while a district education office in Malaya is typically headed by a grade DG52 officer backed by 60 to 70 supporting officers, most district education offices in Sarawak are headed by DG48 officers and backed by 25 to 30 supporting staff.
This, according to him, obviously impacts adversely on the ability of the district education office to effectively supervise schools under their jurisdiction.
On the test papers, he suspected that those entrusted to set test papers, set them based on topics and questions which they had drilled their own students on, resulting in the seemingly superior performance of students from the peninsula.
It is also for this reason that leaks in test papers always occurred in Peninsular Malaysia, he said.
Now Sarawakians dare to say it loud and clear, that in education they have been cheated and short-changed – that the state has been used as a dumping ground for Malayan teachers either unwanted or of no use back in their own home states; and that its rural schools have been made hunting ground for ustaz and ustazah to convert underage children behind their parent’s back.
Sarawakians want to put a stop to all this and are urging the state government to take charge of its own education system once again.
A news report on April 6 said Sacred Heart Old Students’ Association (Shosa) and St Elizabeth Old Students’ Association (Seosa) were considering to propose a motion that Sarawak retake its education autonomy, saying if the state administered its own education system and revert to using English as the medium of instruction, all races in the state would grow up more united.
“I can still recall how my class had a mix of all races, but we were never aware of racial polarisation.
“Sadly, nowadays each race attends their own schools. There is no opportunity to mix. Just check on the friends they have on Facebook or smartphone. Children nowadays no longer have friends of diverse backgrounds,” Shosa president Robert Lau Hui Yew was reported as saying.
Sometime in the middle of March, Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said the history and track record of the state’s proficiency in English at one time served as a validation that the state government was better off taking the education system under its wing.
Baru is confident that the state government will do much better than the Ministry of Education, which, according to him, has only succeeded in producing two or three generations of Malaysians with poor English skills.
Suggesting that part of the state reserves of RM22 billion be utilised for the training of teachers, Baru said: “These are the means we can utilise to train the best teachers and that is how I believe we can improve and be top in English proficiency.”
Why are Sarawakians suddenly very vocal about their fair share of the Merdeka cake, which Putrajaya has been guarding and only grudgingly slices each time it is faced with no choice?
It is because Sarawakians are backing their Chief Minister Adenan Satem, who minces no words when it comes to what Sarawak deserves and what it will do towards that end.
“You want to be like Sabah?
“I don't want to be like Sabah.
“If any federal officer is unhappy with his service and not happy to serve in Sarawak, you tell your bosses.
“You can ask for transfer. We'll support your transfer so that you will be out of this state.
“Mun sik maok sitok, ndak ndak lah sia (If you don't like to be here, so be it).
“Don't make so much noise. There are others who want to be here.”
Sarawakians are capable and willing, that is why they have been saying, in the words of Baru: “Our forefathers, who signed the Malaysia Agreement, placed such high importance on English that we maintain the right to have English as one of our official languages. This right has never been relinquished, and rightly so.
“I thus call on the state government to take back the responsibility of education as it appears that the standard (of English) began dropping when the late Abdul Rahman Yakub handed control over to the federal government.”
JIMMY ADIT is a by-product of journalism’s school of hard knocks. A has-been politikus, today he relishes life in the fringes of politics.
- See more at: http://www.theantdaily.com/Main/Sarawak-wants-to-determine-its-own-education-destiny#sthash.wB4Ll8Zi.dpu