(Penang, Saturday): In the past two months, the hitherto unknown SJK © Damansara has become not only a daily national issue, it has also become internationally-famous as a cause for multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia.
Penang DAP has launched the mass signature campaign in support of the “Save Damansara School Campaign” initiated by the Committee To Defend Original Damansara School And Build A Second New School because this is an issue which deserves the support of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs.
The Education Ministry has said that the new Damansara Chinese primary school at Tropicana, Petaling Jaya would be completed in eight months. This is undoubtedly the victory of public pressure from the controversy over the Damansara school issue.
The Education Ministry must keep its promise to build a new school in Tropicana with 36 classrooms in eight months, but there is no good reason why the original Damansara school with 25 classrooms should not continue to be used as a school for students in the immediate vicinity as a local community school when it is in very good condition.
The root problem of the Damansara school controversy is the failure of the government to build enough Chinese primary schools to meet ever-increasing demand for Chinese primary school places not only by Chinese pupils, but also by non-Chinese pupils as there are now over 70,000 Malay and Indian students in the Chinese primary schools in the country.
In the past 44 years since Merdeka, there is the ridiculous situation where the school enrolment for Chinese primary schools have increased but the number of Chinese primary schools in the country have decreased.
The problem the country faces, particularly in fast-growing population centres like the Klang Valley, is not over-supply of Chinese primary schools but inadequate number of Chinese primary schools.
Under these circumstances, it is the height of irresponsibility to close down a 25-classroom Chinese primary school which is very good condition and this is why the national campaign for the preservation of the original Damansara school should get the support of all Malaysians to send a clear message to the Barisan Nasional government of the need for full government recognition and integration of Chinese primary schools into the mainstream of the national education system.
The “Save Damansara school” should be a campaign not just to preserve the Damansara school, but a campaign to heighten nation-wide awareness and mobilise national support for a new deal for Chinese primary schools in the 21st century and demand that the Eighth Malaysia Plan to be presented to Parliament next month should target the building of 100 Chinese primary schools for the next five years 2001-2005.
I call on the people of Penang to be in the forefront of the nation-wide campaign to save Damansara school and to demand that the Eighth Malaysia Plan should build 100 new Chinese primary schools in the next five years.