A Redefined Perspective of Vernacular Schools
The issue of vernacular schools has popped up yet again. This time, UMNO Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy head Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad suggested the abolishment of vernacular schools be debated at UMNO’s upcoming general assembly
Azli feels that Chinese schools [SJK(C)’s] are being used by the opposition to breed racial and anti-government sentiments
Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Al Habshee hopped on the bandwagon and urged that the vernacular school system be replaced by a single-stream school system.
His main reasoning was that vernacular schools are “seen as the platform in creating the thickening racist sentiments among the people”
Contrary to popular belief, vernacular schools are NOT guaranteed under Article 152 of the Federal Constitution. Vernacular schools are but mere products of that very provision.
Articles 152(1)(a) and (b), clearly states that no person shall be prohibited from using, teaching and learning any other language, unless for official purposes; and that nothing shall prevent the right of the federal government or any state government from preserving the use and study of language of any other community in Malaysia
Technically speaking, Article 152 is not infringed IF vernacular schools are called to shut down because it is not the one and only way for a person to learn his/her mother tongue (though it is by far the best way), or any other language
Legal talk aside, let us consider the allegations that vernacular schools are being used to breed racial sentiments and that national schools are better at promoting national unity
As per Chow Siew Hon [deputy president of the United Chinese School Committees Association (Dong Zong)], 14%, or some 80,000 of the 600,000 pupils enrolled in chinese schools were non-Chinese
If indeed schoolchildren attending SJK(C)’s were racially indoctrinated, wouldn’t we hear more about this in the news? It is expected that if such an abhorrent thing happened, the children would have gone and complained to their parents, and the press would have a field day covering the issue
Upon doing a little research, I came across the following:
May 2008, at SMK Telok Panglima Garang, a history teacher had allegedly called Indian students in a Form Four and a Form Five class ‘keling pariah’, ‘Negro’, ‘black monkeys’ as well as other derogatory names.
The teacher had also purportedly said that ‘Indians came from dogs’ and the community members were stupid and prone to thuggery and thievery.
The police reports also alleged that the teacher had said that Indians were the ‘children of prostitutes’ and the community’s youths ‘did not have testicles’
Four years ago, Pn Siti Inshah (headmistress of SMK Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra) allegedly said “Chinese students are not needed here and can return to China or Foon Yew school. For the Indian students, the prayer string tied around their neck and wrist makes them look like dogs because only dogs are tied like that.”
Just awhile after that, the principal of SMK Bukit Selambau told her Chinese pupils to “return to China.” She uttered the derogatory remarks because students were eating in the school compound during the fasting month of Ramadan. As an educator, shouldn’t she have reprimanded them in a more appropriate fashion?
Also in 2010, a teacher in SMK Raja Jumaat had purportedly censured the Indian and Chinese students when they arrived late to the examination hall by telling the Chinese to return to China and the Indians to India if they failed to understand her instructions in Bahasa Malaysia
In 2011, a teacher in SMK Tun Abdul Razak told her students to go back to China because the students didn’t do very well in their Bahasa Malaysia exam. Does it mean that if students do badly in their history paper, they should go back to prehistoric times?
There are students (regardless of race) that are poor in BM. So should they all go back as well? Where to since most (if not all) are Malaysians?
A teacher at SMK George Town, Sabariah Ramli, had allegedly uttered the words “Hindu Pariah.” Prior to that, she allegedly singled out a group of Indian students and told them: “Hei Hindu diam (Hindu shut up).”
According to the police report, the students were talking in class after an examination when the teacher shouted at them. This is yet again another situation where racist remarks were obviously uncalled for
Just last year, the headmistress of SMK Alam Megah told her non-malay students to “balik India dan China” as she was angered by the pupils who made noise while the national anthem was being sung.
Apparently she had also told the Malay students to go back to Indonesia when she chided the pupils. Isn’t this directly telling students that they dont belong in Malaysia (despite the fact they are Malaysians)?
In case you didn’t notice, all the incidents above occured in national schools. I failed to find any news article regarding vernacular schools refusing pupils of other races, or racially abusing students of other races by calling them derogatory names. So who is breeding racial sentiments now?
A vast majority of those claiming that SJK(C)’s promote racism (be it directly or indirectly), are the very same people who have never attended a vernacular school. They have such a skewed view because of hearsay!
On top of some national school teachers being outrightly racist, one cannot say for sure that national schools would trump vernacular schools when it comes to promoting national harmony.
After all, having a single-stream school system would not guarantee that students of all races would mix and get to know one another. All it does is ensure that the students see those of other races in class for at least 5 days in a week
If our politicians and influential figures continue to churn out racist statements like “Malays are lazy” (Tun Dr Mahathir), “Keling” (Zulkifli Noordin), ‘Petronas built by Malays, belongs to Malays’ (Perkasa), and ‘Chinese migrants are intruders’ (Abdullah Zaik, ISMA), how do we expect unity even amongst the students?
Racist statements would logically lead to the students being suspicious of those of other races. Is that what we really want? Do we want to improve things, or make things worse?
We should address the root cause, that being racist individuals. Swift action must be taken against them (regardless of who they are, be it teachers, ministers, or even the prime minister himself) to show our society’s distate for racism!
Don’t abolish vernacular schools until the root cause has been addressed, and an effective integrated school system has been well thought out (including consulting the associations overseeing vernacular schools). Getting rid of vernacular schools for the sake of national unity is completely preposterous (as evidenced above), and is akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer
* Read it also at The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online, Malaysia Today, and Free Malaysia Today