Malaysiakini Letter

Some advice for the education minister

Stephen Ng  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | Fair enough that Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid is now claiming that he did not ask teachers holding positions in the opposition to resign.

Nevertheless, he should just stop all the polemics before this gets any worse.

As a parent, I have already voiced my own concerns when Umno flags were allowed to adorn a school in Putrajaya. Bersih has also called for the Election Commission to probe Mahdzir.

Others vocal groups, like the Parent Action Group for Education (Page), may not have spoken up just yet, but that does not necessarily mean that they agree with Mahdzir’s latest “fatherly advice.”

My question is therefore, what fatherly advice is the minister talking about? In the first place, Mahdzir should not be meddling with teachers, as it is also their right to hold positions in any political parties because they may want to eventually serve the country better.

The minister should not adopt a double standard, especially when the counterparts of these pro-opposition teachers, are also known to be holding positions in other BN component parties.

As this is a democratic nation, and Mahdzir can even be censured by parliament for his statement had allegedly made last week, he should not blame it on the reporters now for what he now claims to be wrongly quoted.

I am sure that even if the parliamentary speaker had the moral uprightness to uphold the system of parliamentary democracy in this country, the same excuse would be given: if anything goes wrong, just blame the reporters.

Enough is enough. We are all too familiar with ministers using the reporters as scapegoats, especially when their silly remarks attract public criticism. Instead of claiming that he was merely giving “fatherly” advice, I believe many of us would like to give Mahdzir some advice in turn.

More pressing issues to solve

In a previous article, I only mentioned two major issues facing a lot of parents and children. Some, like the mother of the boy supposed diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have already given up on the education system in the country.

Families living in Johor are sending their children to schools in Singapore; others in the Klang Valley, who can afford it, send their children to private or international schools because they no longer have confidence in national and national type schools.

But the majority of us with school-going kids are still stranded with these government schools. Most of us are groaning for a change of government, with the hope that the public education system can be set right again.

Most of us know things are rotting from within, but when some of us try to put things right, we are faced with a blank wall from ministry officials who do not appear to take interest in their jobs. As a result, the situation continues to get worse in some schools.

One biggest problems parents face is the abuse of power by some school principals.

I want to pick on one recent case involving another primary school in Petaling Jaya, where the current headmaster of SJKC Yuk Chai, Chew Hock Jin, told the court last week that he was unaware of an unexplained third bank account opened in the school’s name.

It is understandable that Chew would not have lodged a police report or brought this to the attention of the ministry prior to this, but now that this is out in the open, doesn’t the minister have an obligation to investigate the case more thoroughly?

This is a question of public integrity. If Mahdzir is uninterested in the case, shouldn’t this also raise some response from Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Paul Low who is in charge of “integrity”?

Therefore, we are keen to know how this third account was used or perhaps abused. Who was behind it? Were ministry officials not aware of this third account when it first cropped up or was there a cover up?

Is this a phantom account? How much money has gone through this third account? Who authorised the setting up of the account? Did someone at the ministry, state education or the local district office authorise this account be opened?

I would also like to know from the good minister if he had sent anyone for a watching brief during the trial since this involves a government school? If not, I want to know why not?

The defendant in this case, Lim Jenn Shiah claimed that he discovered there were financial irregularities in the school’s two accounts. His press conference was held at the Selangor Education Department building back then, which logically to me, clearly means that he would have already lodged an official report with the department before speaking to the press.

If irregularities were reported to the department, why did no one in the state education department lodge a police report? Did Lim also lodge a police report? What is the outcome of the investigation? Did this third account involve abuse of power by any authority? If yes, why has the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission done nothing about this case?

Were there financial irregularities? The fact that there was a third account, why the dead silence for so long? As a minister, should Mahdzir not take a special interest in the case and order an immediate investigation, or would he rather blame the news portal for reporting the facts of the case?

Now that the current principal Chew is aware of the third account, should he not be lodging a police report or can he conveniently brush it aside saying that he now has to seek the advice from the ministry?

And, if no police report is lodged, or any thorough investigation is launched by the authorities, would the minister himself absorb all the blame now for allowing some form of irregularities from taking place in our public schools?

These are the questions I hope Mahdzir as Education Minister will place more focus on and ensure that things are done right. He will also have to address the Parent-Teacher Associations (PIBG) in schools rather than to read any more of his political manoeuvres when ostracised.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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