PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has urged Putrajaya to increase its funding for Tamil vernacular schools, saying this would go a long way in helping poor Indians in the country.
His call comes as a response to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement that a key agenda of the Barisan Nasional government is to improve the Indian community’s standard of living.
Speaking to FMT, Santiago said many of the Indian poor preferred Tamil schools for their children’s education and the government should demonstrate its seriousness about helping the community by increasing funds for such schools so that they could be at par with national schools “or at least close to parity”.
“Tamil schools get far less than the national schools do, and yet they are where the majority of the Indian poor send their children,” he said, adding that this was because of the importance they placed on culture and tradition.
“This love for one’s culture and tradition is something we tend to see more among the poor across all races. Most of the time, it’s all they have.”
Santiago also said some Indians were shunning national schools because they feared that their children would be marginalised because of their race.
He alleged that some students in national schools had suffered racial discrimination not only at the hands of their peers but also from teachers. “Sometimes, teachers would rather help their own than students from a different race.”
Marginalisation in national schools has come under the spotlight several times in recent years.
Last August, for example, news reports said a school in Selangor had designated different drinking cups for Muslims and non-Muslims. Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria was among many who condemned the practice. He said it smacked of racism and hate and was abhorrent to Islam.
Santiago said middle and upper class Indians would often prefer private and international schools for their children. However, he added, quite a number of them were following the poorer Indians and sending their children to Tamil schools.