KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — When a question on pursuing tertiary studies was posed to 28-year-old Adilla Zainun, her immediate response was that she had no interest in exploring this option.
Even with the suggestion that free education could be available in the near future, the STPM-graduate asserted that she simply did not want to further her studies.
Without elaborating further, Adilla said that while there were several subjects she was interested in, she was not keen to go any further with her studies.
“I don’t really care about what is happening around me. I don’t know, I guess I’m just not interested.
“I wanted to be an air stewardess, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. Plus, are there any airlines where the female flight crew are allowed to wear a tudung while on duty?” the Kelantanese-born woman told Malay Mail.
Today, Adilla has settled for a job as a shop assistant at a convenience store in Taman Angkasa off Old Klang Road here. She decided to follow her sister to Kuala Lumpur in pursuit of a decent-paying job.
When asked if this was what she would be doing for the next five years, she expressed uncertainty.
There are many others like Adilla, said Roslan Yusuf who lives in the same neighbourhood.
He cited the example of 17-year-old boys who immediately looked for jobs after completing their exams, with no thought of furthering their studies.
“What has become of society? Parents have no time for their children because they are tied up at work. It isn’t because they love to work, but they are barely making ends meet.
“As a result, their children are left at home to do whatever they want... the parents are focused on looking for more money to support the family,” said Roslan.
He said the reason some youth are left out of the country’s development could be because of avenues which are out of their reach and the isolation of certain communities.
But when told about a newly launched initiative, Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030), which is focused on providing a decent living standard to all Malaysians ― regardless of their ethnicity, social class and location — Roslan said, if implemented accordingly, it will definitely help those who belong to the B40 group.
“But to achieve this, the government needs to get rid of corruption. I’m not even talking about big corruption cases, but on the ground. This is even happening within our neighbourhood.
“We talk about how the B40 are suffering, but most of the shops here are owned by foreigners.
“Why not offer these permits to the locals who live here? How did the foreigners get these licences?” said Roslan.
Where are the jobs?
Agreeing that the education system needs to be reviewed, a resident of Lembah Pantai, who only wanted to be identified as Cikgu Ali said, SPV2030 must be able to address the unemployment rate among university graduates.
A retiree, he said his daughter, who is currently working in a clinic, had graduated in management studies, but had not been able to find a job for over two years.
“The government needs to look at the demands of the job market and determine what kind of courses universities should offer in order to ensure that graduates have a job when they have completed their studies.
“For now, my daughter is working in the clinic temporarily, but in the long run, what will happen to her?” said Ali.
He added that there was a need to relook into how the government determined a minimum wage, as different areas in the country have different cost of living standards.
“They cannot just use one number for everyone nationwide. For me, even though I am a pensioner, I have just enough to cover for my wife, because we live in Kuala Lumpur. Everything is so expensive now, we have to be very selective when grocery shopping even.
“Even rental here in Lembah Pantai has gone up to about RM1,500,” he said.
When commenting on SPV2030, Ali said he was hopeful that it will be able to benefit the younger generation.
“The younger generation will benefit from this. Things are not improving at the moment. So if SPV2030 is able to fulfil its goals, we don’t have to worry about our children not being able to secure jobs and have food on their tables when we are gone,” he said.
Apart from unemployment and education, Ali pointed out the need to address racism in the country.
He said the nation seems to be more divided today, compared to before.
“Last time, we can feel the harmony among all races. Now, everyone reacts with a racial remark at every little thing.
“How did we come to this? The government really needs to look at how to bring back the unity we experienced back then.
“It affects everything in the country, including the economy. Who wants to invest in a country that portrays so much negativity? People are scared to come to Malaysia because of all this instability,” he added.
Who speaks for me?
A shop assistant who only wanted to be identified as Dinar said the Indian community lacks representation in the government.
Growing up in Brickfields, the 50-year-old said the Indian community is in dire need of more government representatives who are able to voice their grouses.
He recalled how during the 14th general election, he had hope, seeing that there were Indian candidates who won the election; it meant the Indians who had been marginalised would now have a stronger voice in the country.
“But where are they now? No more sound from those who are MPs or assemblymen.
“As long as there is no one speaking up for the Indians in the government, it is hard to address issues of marginalisation and poverty among the community in the country,” he said.
He too pointed out how racially-related problems affect education opportunities, claiming that he was denied a place in a public university although he had good results.
“Others scored worse than me, but they got in. I just had to accept that I am not Malay and that I will never get an opportunity to further my studies.
“We need to stop all this. It’s still happening now,” he said.
Another Brickfields resident, a graduate in physiotherapy, said she found it hard to find a job after graduating.
Hema, 25, said there is a need for professions like hers, but the job market is such that physiotherapists are not recognised as professionals.
“I’m still looking for a job. There needs to be more awareness on the ground. There is a need for certain professions but people do not know the worth of these professionals.
“At the same time, employers are still hiring based on race. This is a serious problem for us fresh graduates,” she added.
The criteria to qualify for Veterinary Science is to try to get perfect grades in SPM, and Elle Chan, 19, did exactly that.
“But I didn’t get into UPM (Universiti Putra Malaysia), while my friends who are Bumiputera who didn’t get straight As got in.
“So now, I have to pay so much in order to pursue the course at a private institution. We want education, we need education. We shouldn’t need to pay so much for it,” said the Brickfields resident.
She added that the perception of non-Bumiputera as rich needs to change, and that is a form of racism she hopes can change under SPV2030.
“This racism is less direct. They always say that non-Bumiputeras are rich, so they can afford to go overseas. So because of that we are deprived of getting an education in our own country? That’s both unfair and untrue,” she said.
Although she feels disappointed with the system, she said she looked forward to the positive changes SPV2030 will bring.
“If it is implemented properly, I believe it can solve the problems many non-Bumiputera students face today.
“For generations, we have been facing this problem. If they are serious about bringing the nation forward, they must address this,” she said.
Bangsar Baru resident Dawn Tan, 25, too shared a similar discrimination experience in school.
“Right up to my varsity life, I was a JPA (Public Service Department) scholar, but along with me, there were others who didn’t make the cut but were also there with us.
“Eventually, they dropped out. Resources wasted and talents neglected (those who really wanted to study medicine couldn’t enrol because these spots had been given to those who did not fulfil the academic qualifications required),” said Tan.
Understanding that SPV2030 is focused on correcting imbalances in the system, another Bangsar Baru resident said this might even solve the problem of the brain drain in the country.
Noel Wong, 23, said many non-Bumiputera students are leaving the country because they do not see a promising future here.
“It has become a mindset among high school kids who are non-Bumiputera that once they complete their SPM, the only way to further their studies is to take a study loan to enter private institutions, as the chances of getting into public ones are very slim.
“If your family is wealthy, then you have nothing to worry about. But if you are not? What happens?
“If talents are appreciated regardless of race, they won’t leave the country and end up working overseas,” she added.
SPV2030 was launched on October 5 as the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s 10-year roadmap for Malaysia to become an 'Asian Tiger' once more.
To reach this goal, the PH government has outlined three key objectives.
First is restructuring the economy to become knowledge-based so that all groups can participate at all levels and develop together.
Second is addressing the income gap so that no one is left behind. This takes into account the ethnic differences, social classes and regions within Malaysia.
Third is fostering unity and prosperity so that Malaysia can be the new centre of Asia.