(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad yesterday gave the board of governors and parent-teacher association (PTA) of the SJK © Damansara one week to ensure that all students moved to SJK © Puay Chai II or lose the new school near Tropicana.
Musa said that if the board cannot convince the parents, the rest of the 1,400 pupils who are already at SJK © Puay Chai II must return to their original school at SJK © Damansara and the ministry will not build the new school in Tropicana.
Musa said the ministry had given the order for the pupils to move to SJK © Puay Chai II after the schoolís board of governors and PTA requested for it as they claimed the schoolís site was inappropriate.
He assured the parents that if they move to the temporary school, the ministry will construct their new school in Tropicana within two years, if not earlier.
Musa should resolve the SJK © Damansara issue as an educationist and not as a politician, coming up with a "win-win" formula for all parents without the use of any form of intimidation or strong-armed tactics, including the issue of ultimatum.
The Education Minister should not act in any fit of temper whether to retaliate or punish those who had objected to the relocation of the SJK© Damansara to SJK© Puay Chai II but give due consideration to what is uppermost in the minds of parents concerned - what is the best for the educational welfare of their children.
Barisan Nasional leaders should not cloud the SJK © Damansara issue by claiming that it has been "politicised", for they would be insulting the parents by underestimating their intelligence and mocking their love for their children if they really believe that parents are prepared to "play politics" to sacrifice the educational welfare of their children.
Political leaders who could make such baseless allegations are simply not fit to be the peopleís representatives as they have no respect for the notion of participatory democracy in arrogating to themselves the monopoly of knowing what is best for the country and the people. For this reason, all such baseless finger-pointing and allegations should stop and all energies should be channelled towards finding a solution to the SJK © Damansara issue acceptable to all the parents with children in the school.
The formula announced by Musa to resolve the SJK © Damansara issue falls far short of a "win-win" solution respecting the wishes of all the parents with pupils in the school, and what is most unfortunate, contains elements of intimidatory or strong-armed tactics as the ultimatum of withdraw construction of a new Chinese primary school in Tropicana.
Why canít Musa adopt a "win-win" formula comprising two elements:
(i) allowing the retention of the SJK © Damansara school
at its original site, which would number several hundreds of pupils;
(ii) proceed with the building of a new primary school to be known as SJK © Damansara II in Tropicana in less than two years for pupils temporarily relocated to Puay Chay II and who do not wish to return to the original school because of distance and other considerations.
The parents of the 1,400 pupils of SJK © Damansara should be given a choice to endorse this "win-win" formula as the problem facing parents, whether in Petaling Jaya, the Klang Valley or the country is not too many Chinese primary schools but too few Chinese primary schools with easy access to the pupils.
As a result, the Malaysian education system has created the most scandalous situation where Chinese primary school pupils in the Klang Valley have to get up as early as 5 a.m. to catch school buses for morning sessions and who do not get home until some 12 hours later.
What steps have the Education Ministry taken to approve the establishment of more Chinese primary schools both to meet demands as well as to give meaning to the concept of community schooling, easily accessible to pupils so that they do not have to get up at 5 a.m. and do not get home until some 12 hours later?
Musa yesterday refers to a "school relocation principle" of the education ministry, that once a school was relocated, the old premises would have to be closed. It would be bureaucracy gone amok to stick to such a principle regardless of the facts and problems in any situation. As an educationist, Musa should be modifying such inflexible rules and principles instead of being a slave to them.