My son, Ryan, who is 18, left to further his studies in Australia today. He goes to embark on his tertiary studies at a reputed university - ordinarily, something to be proud of. However, it was more sadness than pride that ruled the day
I have pondered many a time as to why we come to a point where it is like tossing your child out of a flaming or sinking ship. We have many universities here, yet we have to sacrifice so much to send them abroad. Why? Thanks to the politicised education system, it is not in his interest to study here - even when we are now a global village.
Many nations who lagged behind us have closed the gap or gone ahead. Had he gone through the local universities, his mobility in terms of employability worldwide would be seriously curtailed. The major corporations in Malaysia generally prefer the foreign graduates - especially those from ranked universities.
The polarisation that is systemic ensures that his circle of friends more likely would be non-Malay or non-Muslim. This would be a major disadvantage in a multi-cultural society - increasingly the trend in many progressive countries. When I was a student in the 70s, our friendships were not determined by our race or religion. In fact, in many cases, we got to know our friends' ethnic origins many years later when they got married and we attended their wedding ceremonies.
In today's increasingly common parlance, I am reminded repeatedly that I am a third generation 'pendatang'. My son therefore will be the fourth - one who like me, speaks only English and Malay. 'Pendatang' nonetheless. Scholarships by and large are a mirage for folk like us. Just like crumbs and morsels that fall off a dining table.
So what are we griping about in the land of blue skies and 'ais kachang'? Our land of blue skies could and should have been a land of milk, honey and plenty. Instead, we have increasingly unfettered corruption, polarisation, degeneration of our education system right from Standard 1 to full blown chaos at the tertiary level.
The perception of fair play as played out in the judiciary gives one little to look forward to in seeking justice. Our sports achievements - barring a few rare exceptions - have seen a massive slide. Even this has been politicised. From a feared soccer nation, we are now below Singapore and Thailand. Sportsmen sell out on their honour and country. Wonder who they learnt this from. From multi-racial teams for soccer, hockey and rugby, we put out almost homogenous teams today. The results speak for themselves
When my son is ready to join the job market, the civil service would not even be a considered option. Turn back the clock about 50 years and one sees the stark difference - when the best brains competed to join the service.
So, as a 'pendatang', my advice to others like me is that you cherish and value the limited time you have with your children because unlike others, you are not guaranteed the opportunity to be at their side - or even a short distance behind - to see that they don't tumble along life's walkway.
When they are packed off at 18, the chances of them returning is so much less. The plus side is that as parents, we know that we have given them the opportunity to make their best shot for the years to come.
Farewell son, the grass may not be greener on the other side, but the skies are more blue. And even if the grass is not greener, it is grass you can stand on with your head held high. God Bless.