Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Sin Chew Daily (English version) under the headline “Building SJKCs: It’s Political Will That’s lacking”.
ACCORDING to a report released by Dong Zong in 2017, the government had approved the construction of 10 new Chinese primary schools and the re-location of another six micro schools in the country in October 2017 but so far only one new Chinese primary school has been constructed and another relocated.
The progress of the 10+6 plan has been extremely sluggish. It takes six full year from 2017 through 2023 to have only two schools opened.
And this speaks volumes of the extreme difficulty in building new schools and re-locating existing ones in this country.
What we can’t understand is that given the powerful government machinery, building and re-locating a dozen of schools should not have been such a hassle at all.
Bear in mind that we are not talking about building space stations but just schools. Theoretically, this is something that can be accomplished rather easily. If it takes six whole years just to open two schools, should completing the 10+6 plan take forever?
Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying said there was indeed tremendous resistance owing to a change of four different administrations in a span of just three years. However, she re-assured that there is continued progress in the construction and relocation of several SJKCs in the country.
Strong political will missing
No doubt, the frequent change of administrations and the political uncertainty in past few years have indeed impacted the many plans of the government. As a matter of fact, there has been substantial changes to the 10+6 plan due to government change.
For example, when Pakatan Harapan (PH) was in power in January 2020, the Education Ministry planned to re-locate the SJKC Tun Lim Chong Eu originally planned for Puncak Alam in Selangor to Alma Bukit Mertajam in Penang, thus slashing the number of new SJKCs in Selangor from five to four.
Undeniably, the country was plunged into a state of political chaos after the Sheraton Move in 2020.
Nevertheless, following the establishment of the unity government by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim with two-thirds majority after the 15th General Election (GE15) last year, such political uncertainty has been largely dispelled, and by right the heads of various government departments should be able to focus on their work and materialise plans that have been drawn up.
Perhaps the frequent government changes have bogged down the construction of SJKCs but a deeper factor could have been a lack of strong political will to kick-start this project.
As said earlier, constructing and re-locating schools is not a mission impossible. If the government can come up with billions of ringgit for flashy mega projects, sure enough constructing and re-locating a dozen of schools is well within the government’s ability.
What is lacking here is not resources, but a strong political will. In the meantime, the Education Ministry has not positively followed up the school construction plan.
Chinese schools benefit all races
As Dong Jiao Zong has said, “Apparently, after approving the plan, the Education Ministry has no further action in drawing up a timetable such that the job is now undertaken by the local Chinese community, in particular the SJKC building committee, including sorting out issues pertaining to the site and cost of construction.”
The Education Ministry must not evade its responsibility and toss everything back to the local Chinese community. It is the ministry’s core responsibility to construct new schools and provide education to pupils.
The Ministry should not have adopted a lackadaisical attitude in executing the 10+6 SJKC plan. It is this passive attitude from the Education Ministry that has made the Chinese community hesitant over the proposal to merge micro Chinese primary schools as they are worried once the schools are closed, they may not get to build another new school!
The Education Ministry must have the right attitude and value the role played by Chinese primary schools in the country’s diverse education system.
Chinese primary schools have over the decades nurtured countless of talented people for the country’s development, including those from different ethnic backgrounds, as many non-Chinese parents are now sending their children to SJKCs in recognition of their superb teaching quality.
Statistics show that the number of non-Chinese students at SJKCs nationwide swelled from a mere 17,000 in 1989 to 101,000 in 2020. This shows that the construction of new Chinese primary schools will benefit not just the Chinese but Malaysians of all races!
Both the government and the Education Ministry must display much stronger determination and sincerity in this issue so that the schools can be completed as soon as possible.
More importantly, the government needs to institutionalise education allocations for the construction of more Chinese primary schools in accordance with the needs so that Malaysians of all races can look forward to high quality education. – Nov 8, 2023
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main pic credit: Nona