(Penang, Thursday): Almost all the Chinese newspapers today give front-page headline treatment to the news from a MCA Cabinet source that at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad directed the Education Ministry to implement as soon possible the 1999 general election promise to build four new Chinese primary schools and relocate 13 Chinese primary schools, and that the Prime Minister has agreed that the government should build more Chinese primary schools according to need.
However, what is most startling and deplorable is that not a single non-Chinese press carried this “exclusive news” of what transpired at the Cabinet yesterday, not even the MCA-owned English daily, the Star - raising two fundamental issues.
Firstly, did the MCA Cabinet source which leaked this Cabinet “news” to all the Chinese newspapers yesterday think that this is not a matter of national importance befitting the knowledge and concern of all Malaysians to be published by all-language media but merely a marginal issue of the Chinese-reading public deserving only coverage in the Chinese-language media?
Secondly, the veracity and authenticity of the leaked Cabinet “news” only to Chinese-language media, especially about Mahathir’s so-called directives and his “displeasure” at Gerakan’s differences with MCA on the SJK © Damansara issue.
The MCA Cabinet source’s leaking of so-called “exclusive Cabinet news” only to the Chinese-language media must be condemned as it is a classic example of the “old politics” of communal “divide-and-rule” which relegates Chinese education and mother-tongue education to a very marginal position and of concern only to the Chinese-educated.
This is outdated and behind-the-times, as what Malaysians want is “new politics” promoting multi-ethnic national and political consciousness which regards mother-tongue education and Chinese education not as marginal issues only of concern to the specific ethnic group affected, but national issues of legitimate concern to all Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political beliefs.
The fate of Chinese primary schools, for instance, is not just the concern of the Chinese-educated Chinese, but all Chinese, whether Chinese-educated, English-educated or Malay-educated and all Malaysians, whether Chinese, Malays, Indians, Ibans or Kadazans.
This is why there are now more than 70,000 non-Chinese students in the Chinese primary schools in the country. Yesterday, it was reported that seven Chinese primary schools in Kuching and Samarahan Division have more bumiputra than Chinese pupils. The schools, several of which are in the coastal areas, have a combined enrolment of 588 bumiputras pupils against 283 Chinese pupils.
A survey carried out last year by the Association of the Board of Management
of Chinese Primary Schools, Kuching and Samarahan Division found that the
56 schools surveyed had a total of 19,319 pupils last year of which 3,383
were bumiputras. For Sek Ren Bantuan Chung Hua, Bako, 42 out of the 48
Questions have legitimately been raised about the veracity and authenticity of the so-called leaked “Cabinet news” - why they were not announced by the Prime Minister himself or at least by the Education Minister, Tan Sir Musa Mohamad if they are rated as serious and important issues instead of being leaked by an unsourced MCA Cabinet Member which could be easily denied subsequently ?
All that Musa said yesterday after the Cabinet meeting was that the Cabinet retained its stand and decision on the relocation of the SJK © Damansara and its undertaking that the new school at Tropicana would be completed within two years (which is different from the claim by the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Hon Choon Kim of the completion of the new school within eight months).
It is most astonishing that it has to take 15 months after the 1999 general election, and nearly two months of the nation-wide Damansara school controversy, for the MCA Ministers to remember the 1999 general election promise to build four new Chinese primary schools and relocate 13 Chinese primary schools.
If not for the DAP’s call for a New Deal for Mother-tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan to set targets like the building of 250 new Chinese primary schools in the next five years, the MCA Ministers would probably continue to forget about the 1999 election promise.
The 1999 Barisan Nasional election promise to build four new Chinese primary schools and relocate 13 Chinese primary schools should be regarded as a government commitment for the year 2000, where the government’s aim for the year was building 371 new schools and extensions to 462 existing schools.
If the government can build the new Chinese primary school in Tropicana, Petaling Jaya in eight months, there is no reason why the government could not build the four new Chinese primary schools and relocate 13 Chinese primary schools it promised in the 1999 general election last year itself - and this should now be regarded as a Seventh Malaysia Plan shortfall which the government must make up urgently and treated separately from the Eighth Malaysia Plan.
DAP invites MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC, together with other Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative parties, to a conference to reach a consensus on a New Deal for Mother-tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan, one of whose targets is to build 250 new Chinese primary schools in the next five years.
During Independence in 1957, there were 1,333 Chinese primary schools with a total enrolment of 310,000 students. Forty-three years later in 2000, Chinese primary school enrolment has doubled to over 620,000, but there had been no matching doubling of the number of Chinese primary schools in the past four decades, but a reduction of 49 schools instead to 1,284 schools.
In 1968, there were 2,770 national primary schools with a total enrolment of 666,389 students. In the 32 years from 1968 to 2000, total enrolment in national primary schools reached 2,218,747 (an increase of 1,552,358) while the number of national primary schools increased by 2,737 new schools to reach a total of 5,407 schools. This works out to an average of an increase of 567 students for a new national primary school.
If this principle of a new primary school for every increase of 567 students is applied to Chinese primary schools, there should be an increase of 546 new schools in the 43 years from Independence in 1957 to 2,000 for the doubling of the Chinese primary school enrolment from 310,000 to 620,000. As in the past 43 years, there had been a reduction of 49 Chinese primary schools, this would put the shortfall of Chinese primary schools to 546 + 49 = 595.
Asking for the building of 250 new Chinese primary schools from 2001 to 2005 when there should have been 599 new Chinese primary schools built by 2000 is not being excessive, unreasonable or “extremist”, and I hope that the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC national leaders will be prepared, together with other Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternative parties, to sit down to agree on a New Deal for Mother-tongue Education in the Eighth Malaysia Plan.