If there had been instances of racism in vernacular schools, the media would have screamed about it by now.
By Joshua Wu
Let us consider that allegation and the obvious implication that national schools are better at promoting national unity.
According to Dong Zong, 14%, or some 80,000 of the 600,000 pupils enrolled in Chinese schools are non-Chinese. If indeed schoolchildren attending SJK(C)’s were racially indoctrinated, wouldn’t we have heard about this in the news? If such an abhorrent thing had happened, the children would have complained to their parents, and the press would have a field day covering the issue.
A little research would show that racism is a problem in national schools, not vernacular schools.
I did some digging and unearthed the following:
In May 2008, at SMK Telok Panglima Garang, a history teacher allegedly called Indian students “keling pariah” and “black monkeys” among other derogatory descriptions. It was also alleged that the teacher said Indians were stupid and prone to being thugs and robbers.
In 2010, the headmistress of SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra allegedly said, “Chinese students are not needed here and can return to China or Foon Yew school. As for the Indian students, the prayer strings tied around their necks and wrists make them look like dogs.”
A short time later, the principal of SMK Bukit Selambau told her Chinese pupils to “return to China”. She uttered the derogatory remarks because students were eating in the school compound during the fasting month of Ramadan. As an educator, shouldn’t she have reprimanded them in a more appropriate fashion?
Also in 2010, a teacher in SMK Raja Jumaat had allegedly censured Indian and Chinese students when they arrived late to the examination hall by telling the Chinese to return to China and the Indians to India if they couldn’t understand instructions in Malay.
In 2011, a teacher in SMK Tun Abdul Razak told her students to go back to China because the students didn’t do well in the Bahasa Malaysia exam. Does this mean that if students do badly in their history paper, they should go back to prehistoric times?
Just last year, the headmistress of SMK Alam Megah told her non-Malay students to “balik India dan China” for making noise while the national anthem was being sung.
There are many other examples of such incidents in national schools, but in my research I failed to find any news item about racial abuse in a vernacular school.
The people claiming that Chinese schools promote racism never attended a vernacular school. Their skewed views are either their own concoctions or based on hearsay.
Furthermore, one cannot say for sure that national schools would trump vernacular schools when it comes to promoting national harmony. After all, having a single school system would not guarantee that students of all races would mix and get to know one another. All it does is ensure that students of various races see one another in class five days a week.
If our politicians and influential figures continue to churn out racist statements like “Malays are lazy” (Mahathir Mohamad), “keling” (Zulkifli Noordin), “Petronas was built by Malays and belongs to the Malays” (Perkasa), and “Chinese migrants are intruders” (Abdullah Zaik, ISMA), how do we expect unity amongst students?
Racist statements from influential people would very likely lead to suspicion and distrust between students of different races. This is one of the root causes of racism, and we should address it. Swift action must be taken against those who utter racist remarks—regardless of who they are—to show our society’s distaste for racism.
Don’t abolish vernacular schools until the root causes have been identified and addressed, and an effective integrated school system has been devised. Getting rid of vernacular schools for the sake of national unity is akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer.
Joshua Wu is an FMT reader