Education is a right, certainly not a Deepavali gift

charles-santiago-indian-studentBy Charles Santiago

Over the last eight years, I have seen many Indian students with straight As but who don’t get the course of their choice in a local university.

Utterly frustrated, they would sit in my Klang office and tell me that their string of excellent grades wasn’t enough to get them to law or medical school.

As if a piece-meal offering, the university would give them a place in fisheries or veterinary studies. Most of these students don’t take up the offer.

They either postpone their tertiary education or borrow money to pursue their dream.

This has been going on for decades in Malaysia. So Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement of an additional 700 places to be made available in public institutions of higher learning for Indian students isn’t anything that deserves celebration.

It certainly doesn’t qualify as a “Deepavali gift”. And neither is the Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB) a big gift to the Indian community.

These announcements should receive little play because it’s the responsibility of the state to provide education for its people, especially for the vulnerable groups.

In fact, Najib’s instructions came after a ribbing by Malaysian Indian Congress President Dr S Subramaniam who brought up the issue of 745 eligible Indian students who were unable to get places in public tertiary education institutions.

If I may ask, why weren’t they given a spot in the first place? Why do politicians and the prime minister have to interfere if the system offers places based on meritocracy and not other considerations such as race and religion?

Vulnerable students from all communities should be given priority and not offered places as an after-thought.

And this includes students from Tamil schools.

Our pupils from six Tamil schools in the country bagged 10 gold medals at the International Young Innovators Awards 2017 which took place in Jakarta.

In the last few years Tamil school pupils have won numerous prestigious international science awards. In other countries, such talent will be encouraged with scholarships, and other forms of support.

Why hasn’t the government nurtured these students?

The silence of the ministry of education on these matters is appalling.

It also clearly shows that the current education system is biased and favours a specific group of people.

If this doesn’t stop we will lose out on the talents of many young students from Tamil schools, and that’s a shame.

Charles Santiago is DAP Klang MP.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.