Want to stop politicisation of vernacular schools? Just fund them fully, MCA man says

Teacher Lau Chooi Lan instructing pupils of Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Chong Hwa in Setapak, January 2, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Teacher Lau Chooi Lan instructing pupils of Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Chong Hwa in Setapak, January 2, 2014. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — Another MCA representative is wading into the brewing row with Umno over vernacular schools, saying that the full federal funding for these would stop them from becoming fodder for rival politicians.

Despite acknowledging Petaling Jaya Utara Umno deputy division chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad’s claim that vernacular schools were used to inculcate racism and anti-establishment sentiments, MCA division chairman for the same locale Tam Gim Tuan said abolishing the institution was not the solution.

“To stop this political exploitation once and for all, it is timely for the federal government to step in and start the process to ultimately provide ‘Bantuan Penuh’ or full assistance to all SJKCs and SJKTs which is under the umbrella of Ministry of Education,” Tan said in a statement today.

SJKC and SJKT refer to Chinese and Tamil vernacular type schools, respectively.

Tan also reminded Mohamad Azli that it was not for Umno alone to decide whether vernacular schools stay or go, saying that Barisan Nasional (BN) is a coalition of 13 parties and operated on a consensus basis.

This consensus meant that a single dissenting party would prevent BN from proceeding with any decision.

“The Umno general assembly is not the appropriate forum to debate the closure of SJKCs as suggested by Azli.

“Matters as such, if to be debated at all, should either be at the federal Cabinet meeting and the BN supreme council meeting or in the Parliament,” Tan said.

Yesterday, Mohamad Azli was reported as saying that the Umno general assembly next month should discuss closing down Chinese vernacular schools as they purportedly promote racism and anti-government sentiments.

His remark later prompted MCA religious harmony bureau chair Datuk Ti Lian Ker to lodge a police report accusing the Umno man of sedition.

The Umno leader also came in for rebuke from Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong and Wanita MCA chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie.

Vernacular schools are provided for under the Federal Constitution, but do not receive full federal funding unlike national schools.

Instead, they are partially-funded and must depend on other sources of revenue — usually private donations — to finance their operations.

Despite this, vernacular schools continue to grow in popularity here in Malaysia, with an increasing number of non-Malay parents preferring to send their children to Mandarin- and Tamil-language schools over the Malay-language national schools.

Defenders of Bumiputera special privileges regularly target vernacular schools to deflect demands for equal treatment of the country’s races after decades of race-based affirmative action.