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Why are Sabahans so keen on education?

 | August 19, 2017

Perhaps they see it as the only way out of poverty.

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Isn’t it interesting that no school in Sabah is on the Education Ministry’s list of 402 Malaysian schools with disciplinary problems? We would have thought that Sabah, which is often spoken of as the poorest state in the country, would be fertile ground for the breeding of hooligans.

The list was presented last June at a meeting of the ministerial Committee on Student Disciplinary Problems. The details were reported in the press recently.

It’s also interesting that rich Selangor, with all the conveniences available for its children, tops the ministry’s list. Seventy-six of its schools are identified as having disciplinary issues, including drug problems.

Perhaps, after all, there’s something wrong with the conventional view that material deprivation tends to lead to anti-social behaviour.

We’ve all seen photos of school kids in Sabah in their stained uniforms, braving muddy rivers and dirt roads to get to school several kilometres away from their homes. Compare them with the typical child in the Klang Valley, who has the luxury of being sent to school in the family car or at least in a bus.

So it would appear that children in Sabah seem to be more serious about their education than their peers in the rest of the country, even though it’s a struggle for them to even get to school.

We are talking about a state where many people still don’t have access to basic amenities like water and electricity. Perhaps it’s precisely this extreme poverty that makes Sabahans teach their children the value of learning so they do not have to suffer like their parents.

Many children on the peninsula are privileged enough to have a list of options to fall back on even if they don’t do well in school. Some can depend on the family business for their future and some have influential fathers or uncles who can pull strings to ensure they get cushy jobs with some private or government company. In fact, some of these fathers and uncles could even pressure universities to enrol their children regardless of their SPM grades.

Some, of course, join gangs and learn to make a living through extortion or selling drugs.

Oddly enough, the conveniences enjoyed by peninsular children make some of them forget that these could be taken away in the blink of an eye. That’s probably why quite a number end up in an endless search for employment.

The standard of education in this country has been greatly criticised by many and because of that some may come to the conclusion that hard work in school would be wasted anyway.
However, it can be argued that Sabahan children, by breaking their backs to get an education, even if it’s poor education, are learning to build character.

A wise employer once said: “Lazy workers will drive this company under. But give me one good man who’s willing to break his back and I’ll take on the world.”


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