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Focus on more important issues than khat, Sabah minister tells Putrajaya

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A Sabah minister believes that learning khat (Jawi calligraphy) ought to be optional and has urged the Education Ministry to focus on more pressing issues.

According to a Free Malaysia Today report, state Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedict said that it was more important to address teachers’ welfare and to fix the 587 dilapidated schools in Sabah.

He also suggested that Putrajaya work on improving students’ English, addressing the high number of unemployed graduates and improving rural students’ access to schools.

“The focus now should not be on changing the colour of school shoes or introducing khat calligraphy as a compulsory subject for Bahasa Malaysia in schools,” he was reported as saying yesterday.

Unlike school construction projects by the Sabah Public Works Department, Benedict claimed that several education projects carried out by the federal ministry have been “problematic” or delayed.

“There are some that have been abandoned and others that have been completed but without adequate facilities, for example, a new school block that does not have a teachers’ room or a new hostel with no toilets,” he said.

Benedict thus agreed with Sabah PKR chief Christina Liew that students ought to be given the choice rather than be compelled to learn khat as part of the syllabus.

Liew, who is Sabah tourism, culture and environment minister, previously said that primary school pupils should not be “forced” to learn khat as they were already studying many subjects.

She also said that Putrajaya ought to have consulted the Sabah government before implementing this policy.

The Education Ministry will introduce khat into the Standard Four Bahasa Malaysia textbook for primary schools beginning next year.

The move has received strong opposition from Chinese educationist groups.

This culminated in the ministry meeting 12 non-governmental organisations yesterday, with deputy minister Teo Nie Ching saying that the two sides had reached a consensus over the issue. 

DAP grassroots have also protested the move, compelling the party’s top leadership to step in.


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