KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim urged Universiti Malaya alumni to help needy students by contributing to its endowment fund launched last night.
Anwar, who is patron of the UM alumni association, said the government has to ensure underprivileged students are given sufficient funding.
He said the university has produced many industrialists, managers and officers who are holding good jobs and in a position to help others.
“I hope the launch of this fund will provide more contributions to those in need.
“It doesn’t matter if the amount is small. What is important is for a large proportion of the 200,000-odd alumni to contribute to this fund,” he said at the launch of the fund.
The UM endowment fund (UMEF) was launched by Higher Education deputy director-general Mohd Cairul Iqbal Mohd Amin. Also present were alumni association president Noordin Abd Razak, UM vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim and UMEF organising committee chairman Ahmad Nazri Abdullah.
Earlier, in his speech, Anwar said the government, in spite of the fund, should continue to play a major role when it comes to education.
He said the government needs to begin with the premise that there are weaknesses, some inherited from the past administration.
“As with the PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund) debacle, we do not want the problem we inherited to be a burden to the people.
“I maintain that we must make concerted efforts to ensure that education is not a burden to the people. Those who need help cannot feel pressured,” he said.
Anwar, who is also the PKR president, pointed out that the urban elites would usually talk about their rights and freedoms, but there is a lack of discourse on poverty and educational opportunities for the people.
“We hear them talking about meritocracy. But it is wrong and simply dumb to talk about meritocracy, yet we don’t discuss the constraints faced by some communities who are sidelined, whether in rural areas or the urban poor, who have no chance of competing with wealthier Malaysian students,” he said.
Anwar said justice is not about giving to those who are smart and qualified, because this group of people are already competing on a different track.
“Yes, we give recognition to those who are smart and qualified but we also need to give sufficient attention to the poor and destitute in the rural areas, in the estates, the urban poor, whether it is the Chinese, Malays, Indian or Dayak community.
“This has to be the new narrative transcending racial lines,” he added.
The university is targeting endowment funds totalling RM200 million. Some 60% of undergraduates in the university are in the bottom-40 group (B40).