After coming under criticism for shoehorning its plan to have national school students switch from white to black shoes, the Education Ministry has clarified that the move would only be implemented in stages beginning next year.
In a posting on the ministry's Facebook page today, Education Ministry director-general Amin Senin was quoted saying that his ministry was considering all factors in this matter, including the burden faced by low-income parents.
"We (the ministry) will consider all factors that will not burden parents and students, as some parents will purchase (the new shoes) earlier, or some (parents) can't afford to buy new school shoes," he was quoted saying.
According to a report in Berita Harian, Amin stated that schools would be given the discretion to accord low-income parents more time to purchase new shoes to replace their children's current white ones.
"It (using black shoes) will be made compulsory at the right time," he said.
Education Minister Maszlee Malik had on Thursday announced that the plan to use the new school shoe colour would begin next year, and that parents had requested the change.
This was part of a series of initiatives the new minister announced during a forum, including providing more space for art, music and literature in the classroom, improvements for special needs schools, reducing teachers' workload and managing schools of different streams.
Even so, many quarters criticised his shoe plan, with some deeming it trivial or a mere cosmetic change.
Others, such as nonprofit Gerai OA (Orang Asal), stated that while some parents may be relieved by their children being able to sport low-maintenance black shoes, low-income parents will have to fork out more money to buy new shoes for the new school year.
"As it is, many indigenous students only own one pair of school shoes, and this is a common sight in villages – students removing their shoes to keep them clean and dry for the duration of the school week.
"Hopefully indigenous parents can opt for cheaper, black 'Adidas kampung' – a one-piece shoe made from rubber commonly worn by villagers and which usually cost under RM10 per pair," it said in a Facebook posting after Maszlee's announcement.
Meanwhile, Ayer Hitam parliamentarian Wee Ka Siong had earlier today taken to Twitter to call on the minister to allow the use of white and black shoes in schools next year.
"Poor children can be throwing away perfectly fine white shoes. Be flexible and find a 'soft landing' approach.
'The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once said 'it does not matter if the cat is white or black, it's the cat that catches the rat that's the best.
"In Malaysia, it doesn't matter if your shoe is white or black, it has nothing to do with increasing the quality of education," Wee tweeted.