Noh Omar should know when to hold his tongue

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Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Noh Omar, has accused Lim Lip Eng of the DAP of politicising his proposal to make it compulsory for Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) to raise funds from the public for the maintenance of school buildings.

Lim argued that funds for school building maintenance should be taken instead from the RM20.3 billion allocated to the Prime Minister’s Department in Budget 2016 and not from members of the public.

Noh Omar retaliated however, saying: “If he (Lim) has never been in a PTA, how would he know?”

Well, with all due respect, as a mother of two who has been involved in the PTA of four different schools over a period of thirteen years, I think I have enough experience and knowledge (at least compared to Lim) to have a say in the matter.

Truth is, Noh’s proposal isn’t something new – for donkey’s years, parents like myself have been helping our children’s schools in many ways. Among the things we, parents have volunteered for are:

• Washing, cleaning, beautifying classrooms at the beginning of the year and during semester breaks. We purchase curtains, tablecloths and sheets of cardboard for class noticeboards. Sometimes we even get new brooms, washing cloths and feather dusters for use in the class.

• Teach, guide and train students in extra-curricular activities. I personally trained my children’s cheerleading team for three years (even when my children did not take part themselves).

• Volunteer to monitor morning and afternoon traffic at the school gate.

• Volunteer to assist the school in plumbing works especially in the school toilet and canteen wash basins.

• Volunteer to check and see to the repairs of electrical work around the school.

• Organise school marathons and canteen days to collect funds to build roofed walkways, build new buildings, stock-up the library, etc.

• Volunteer as chauffeur for students representing their school in competitions.

• Volunteer to clean the student’s toilet every semester break.

• Beautify the school compound with plants and flowers.

• Paint the school building and classrooms.

• Cater food, drinks and decorate classrooms during special occasions like Teacher’s Day and Children’s Day.

• Offer to pay school and PTA fees for underprivileged children who cannot afford to.

• Offer to purchase school uniforms and other school necessities for underprivileged students.

Almost in every PTA meeting, school representatives will request for parents’ help. According to them, although there are government allocations for school improvement, approvals take forever, and very often never come through. This is especially so in “unpopular” schools – you know, schools where the students’ parents are nobodies.

Like myself, there are many parents out there who have not only spent a fortune, but also put in a lot of energy, time and effort to help in any way we can with the sincere hope of easing the burden of teachers and the school administration.

Sadly, in most cases, while parents continue to assist schools, no improvement is seen in the quality of teaching or the system of administration. Year in year out, parents keep doing what is expected of them and everyone else gets so pampered and ‘naik lemak’ – the ministry keeps changing the system, teachers keep going for courses, school heads keep getting promoted if not transferred – and the academic levels of our students keep deteriorating.

Makes me wonder why we, parents even bother?

The one nagging question on my mind, is the same one Lim asked Noh – what is the rational of demanding parents to fund school expenses and assist in school matters when our government is doing nothing to improve the system?

If parents are made to raise funds from the public to maintain school buildings, what next? What do we need a government for then? We might as well maintain the parliament and cabinet ourselves too!

Clearly, if Noh does not understand the responsibilities that should be borne by government ministries, he should just refrain from saying anything.