KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — A group representing undergraduates from several local public universities walked 9km from Universiti Malaya here to Parliament in a show of unhappiness over the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s about-turn over their student education loans.
Dressed in their respective university convocation robes, the demonstrators, led by Muhammad Faizzuddin Mohd Zai, the president of Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam Malaysia (Gamis) — a coalition of student bodies with over branches in over 20 universities — demanded PH fulfil its election pledge to defer the repayment on National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) borrowers who earn under RM4,000 monthly.
“PTPTN remains a burden to low-income students who are merely trying to make ends meet.
“It is unfair that they will be burdened with a huge repayment, especially those who just entered the job market as many are earning less than RM2,000,” he told reporters outside Parliament.
Muhammad Faizzuddin was referring to PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan’s admission on November 10 that the government would not be able to fulfil its election pledge due to the education fund’s debt that had ballooned to RM400 billion.
The demonstrators numbered about 20 were sweating under their heavy robes. Some told Malay Mail their fellow undergraduates had morning classes and therefore were unable to participate in the march.
It took them about two hours to cover the 9km distance between the main campus of the country’s oldest university and its lawmaking institution which is currently in session, where they had hoped to meet with Education Minister Maszlee Malik and voice their disgruntlement directly.
However, they were stopped by a police line some 500 metres from Parliament’s gates.
A representative of the minister, Abdul Hannaan Khairy, met the students and promised to convey their demands to the minister.
A frustrated Faizzuddin said it was not the first time that the students have failed to meet directly with Maszlee to air their dissatisfaction, adding that the group will persist in their efforts to do so.
“We are not going to give up. We will intensify our efforts to get Maszlee to come and meet us.
“It seems like walking 9km today is not enough to get his attention,” Faizzuddin said.
He added that Gamis members would hold a meeting with graduates of their respective universities and decide on their next move.
However, he indicated that Gamis has plans for another march, this time from UKM to the Education Ministry in Presint 5, Putrajaya, a distance of 19km, to get Maszlee’s attention.