Dear education minister, please curb abuse in PIBGs

 

Dr Maszlee,

The Parent-Teacher Associations (PIBGs) play an important role in helping schools provide a conducive learning environment for children.

However, based on my personal observations and that of a few parent lobby groups such as Jiazhong, PAGE, Magpie, Aspires and Penang Hope, I have arrived at the following conclusion: If the education ministry fails to tighten its control over PIBGs, they will become a blank cheque for some school principals.

The PIBG constitution is too loose, and although there are education officers at the local district and state education departments monitoring the schools and PIBGs, enforcement is often lacking, which makes even AGMs and the minutes taken during such meetings a mockery of our system.

There is so much room for abuse, and despite complaints lodged with the ministry at all levels, parents often feel like they are complaining to a blank wall. To solve these parents’ woes, some of these officers should be replaced and always be kept on their toes.

Recently, following your ministry’s move to ban the paid IT literacy classes during school hours in Chinese primary schools, some people claiming to represent PIBGs nationwide campaigned against the ministry’s directive issued in April this year.

Are we deceiving ourselves that the principals who act as PIBG advisers knew nothing about this so-called campaign by PIBGs? In almost all cases, the PIBG would consult the principals before doing anything.

Maszlee should just visit the Facebook pages of parent groups such as Jiazhong, Malaysian Education Info and SJKC Fee Monitoring to fully grasp why parents are whacking these people.

Some of these PIBGs are paying in the quantum of RM200,000 a year to engage external vendors and are enjoying a profit margin of 30% – all at the expense of the parents! This is not the only source of income for PIBGs, which explains why some can have up to RM700,000 in cash balance.

As the newly-minted minister, I hope you will start looking into how to control the huge funds in some PIBGs and stop the abuse by some school principals and their PIBGs.

My friend who is an MP in the state of Johor told me that he receives many letters asking for donations from PIBGs. When I was working with Monash University, I also received a lot of letters from school PIBGs asking for donations. At the moment, there is no way to ascertain if the same letter is also sent to different organisations.

I would not be surprised if for one event costing RM5,000, there are multiple donations of RM5,000 from different organisations. There is nothing wrong if the PIBG uses the money for the good of the children, but there needs to be a mechanism for proper accountability. It will take a good auditor to pick up on the hidden expenditures.

Frankly, we are not against PIBGs trying to raise funds on behalf of their schools. While I was helping my son’s PIBG, I also raised funds for some worthwhile projects from external sources. I only stopped paying fees disguised as “donations” to the PIBG after I saw how much money there was in the PIBG fund and how it was utilised.

It got on my nerves when I learnt that a secondary school in Bandar Utama was charging RM5 per child per annum for the use of school toilets this year, when the ministry had already provided allocations to maintain the schools.

Prior to the general election, former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi himself said that a school hall built in his constituency did not appear worth RM600,000. We have yet to hear what happened after that.

I strongly feel there is a need for more accountability on the part of the principals, the PIBGs and the board of governors on how public money is spent.

Stephen Ng is an FMT reader.

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