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PKR's pick for Segamat could arrest education slide

Stephen Ng  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | This week, I was scheduled to meet R Santhara Kumar, after a short holiday with my children.

However, upon reading his biodata, I was so impressed with his achievements that I decided to take time off from my kids to write this.

In my opinion, the founder of the Masterskill Education Group is exactly the kind of politician that we need at the helm of the Education Ministry, as opposed to the kind of ministers we’ve had since Merdeka.

I have nothing personal against any of the previous education ministers, but it is unfortunate that our public education has been on a southward trajectory for so long that it would be hard for any well-meaning person to revamp it.

Any attempt to even suggest what needs to be done to transform the ministry has only fallen on deaf ears. This situation is compounded when we don’t have the right person at the wheel.

Though a former headmaster, the current minister Mahdzir Khalid appears to be more interested in politics than the proper running of the school system to benefit young Malaysians.

These days, it seems that when complaints are raised, they are simply being ignored. To many parents with children in the system, only drastic changes in Putrajaya will save this most important ministry.

To arrest the erosion of parents’ confidence in the public education system, something needs to be done at the top level – starting with the appointment of a good education minister who truly understands the dynamics of what constitutes a quality education.

Would PKR’s Santhara be the right person for the job? Hailing from an estate in Johor, he is now slated to take on incumbent Segamat MP and MIC president Dr S Subramaniam in the coming polls.

Fitting, since Subramaniam is the health minister, and Santhara has transformed the nursing profession in Malaysia with his colleges.

Having worked to the top in both the corporate and political spheres, he therefore understands the need to uplift the education of the rural poor. This is especially necessary, given that many of our children in these areas are still grappling with low literacy compared to their counterparts in the urban cities and towns.

'Not interested in position'

A self-made entrepreneur, Santhara told me that he is not interested in any position even after winning the general election. “I am only committed to bring courage and hope to the next generation of Malaysians,” he said.

Having gone through the valley of the shadow of death battling cancer myself, I could understand why Santhara may want to avoid taking on too many responsibilities, even if Pakatan Harapan wins in next general election.

Santhara suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm before his 40th birthday. At that point, Masterskill was listed as a new IPO, and he was also working 15 to 16 hours a day trying to complete his PhD on the relationship between transformational leadership, organisational culture, effective commitment and employee performance.

Now fully recovered, he decided to stand in Segamat, because like many activists, he too is committed to saving Malaysia from sliding further into the pits, though not having very high political ambitions himself.

I told him that he should cross that bridge when he comes to it, and just focus on winning Segamat.

But if Santhara can bring the same level of dedication to the Education Ministry that he did in building up Masterskill, Harapan could do worse than giving him the portfolio if it emerges victorious in the coming general election.


STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.

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

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