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My fantasies of educational sovereignty

  • The state DAP chief promised us to take the voice of local Chinese community into the federal cabinet and have the Jawi case handled separately for Sarawak.

Ho Lee Peing
Sin Chew Daily

The Seni Khat issue is like a piece of crystal clear mirror that reflects the true faces of our politicians.

Indeed, with so much controversy and endless arguments going on, how possible could this whole thing come to a conclusion with the number of pages dedicated to Jawi calligraphy cut down to three from six?

Even though education minster Maszlee Malik has reassured us that Khat will not be examinable, the Chinese community's distrust towards the new government is not going to be reversed anytime soon.

Without the slightest doubt, DAP is the biggest loser in this whole issue. The way the party's top leaders have responded to public frustration and queries has further distanced themselves from the people, and their apparent lack of empathy towards the community's feelings has only served to disappoint us more.

From public consensus to social media comments, it is not hard to see that Chinese-dominant opposition parties in the likes of SUPP, MCA and Gerakan Rakyat have constantly poked fun at the 95% Chinese voters who now regret having made the fallacious decision to support Pakatan Harapan in the general elections last May.

The entire country is now shrouded in a depressed mood, be it in politics or economy. Many voted for PH with the hope the coalition could bring them and the nation a new hope.

Even if we were to look back and evaluate the decisions we made then, I'm quite sure there is no such thing as being regretful or not, as we have to bear all possible consequences of our own decisions ourselves.

Back to the Khat issue, indeed DAP has been under tremendous pressure over this issue. Party leaders from top down have been constantly slammed for saying the wrong things at the wrong time, and some have rather opted to keep mum for fear of saying what they should not have said.

Sarawak is going to hold its state elections earliest by next year. No doubt, this thing has dealt a severe blow on DAP which prior to this has had overflowing confidence of capturing the state administration come the next state elections. Pressure has stormed in from all sides, in particular the local Chinese community which has accused the party of lapse of duty despite the fact it has the largest number of seats among the components of the ruling coalition.

State DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen once promised, “We'll bring the voice of Sarawak's Chinese community into the cabinet and have the case handled separately for Sarawak, namely Chinese primary schools in Sarawak have the right to decide whether or not to teach Khat.”

You may wonder how Chong, a deputy minster, can take the voice of the local Chinese community into the cabinet. I nevertheless do not think this is a big problem in the first place, as he has many party comrades in the cabinet who may voice up on his behalf.

I personally am more interested in what he said on handling Sarawak's case separately.

If this can be handled as an independent case, it will mark a first step towards greater educational sovereignty for Sarawak, and the SJKC students in the state will no longer have to worry about learning Jawi at school.

Once the first step is made, we will have the second and third steps. As a Sarawakian, it is my sincere hope that such “independent case management” will not be confined only to Jawi, but also the eventual educational sovereignty for Sarawak as an important, equal partner in the formation of Malaysia.

With educational sovereignty, Sarawak's textbooks will incorporate, and more so emphasize, the section on East Malaysia's history, because we need to learn more about this native land of ours in order to love the country more.

With educational sovereignty, Sarawak's children will come to realize that the “Land of the Hornbills” actually boasts more than a score of ethnicities, and will be able to learn about their cultures and languages.

The language of the Ibans, Sarawak's largest ethnic group, will be taught at schools. I often lament at only knowing a couple of words like makai (eat), nyirup (drink), and sitek (one piece). To respect one anther's differences, we should start from learning about their culture and language.

With educational sovereignty, perhaps our children will not need to sit inside the classroom learning Java programming which their parents think is the “in” thing to learn.

In its stead, we shall take them for a field trip for at least one or two periods a week to discover the immense treasure trove of our age-old rainforests.

Our children don't just learn about orangutans from their textbooks but by stepping into a wildlife sanctuary to see for themselves how these primates swing from one tree to another in the lush forests.

Or perhaps our teachers will bring them to an open field and sit down in a quiet night gazing at the starry sky above to admire the vastness of our infinite Universe.

Just as I was completely soaked in my own fantasies, by chance I caught a glimpse of the news reports on my desk.

Responding to a question from the press on East Malaysia's rejection of Jawi teaching, minister Maszlee said coldly, “Sabah and Sarawak are still parts of Malaysia, right?”

(Ho Lee Peing is Sin Chew Daily Deputy Executive Editor, East Malaysia.)

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