Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek must deal decisively and promptly with the serious allegation about the school SPM workshop that was helping only poor-performing Malay students in Johor.
Failure to do so will undermine her own position and more importantly, will render meaningless the latest Madani Malaysia initiative by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The calls for her to resign or be replaced are getting stronger.
As the facts slowly emerge and more people come forward with their past experiences, Fadhlina knows that a Pandora’s box has been opened in the ministry.
The exposé was first highlighted by Twitter user Anne Louis, when she said that a few days ago, the SMK Convent of the Infant Jesus held an SPM workshop only for Malay students. The workshop would help students revise Islamic studies.
The SPM Preparation Workshop was held at Hotel Suasana in Johor Bahru, on January 19 and 20. It was a two-day-and-one-night event.
The participants included 30 girls who had failed their Malay and history subjects, as well as those who were Galus (failed with potential to pass) candidates in several other subjects.
Although it was mentioned that Islamic studies would be taught, subsequent inquiries revealed that chemistry and additional mathematics had also been included. Were other subjects included?
Had the mention of Islamic studies been planted as the red herring for non-Malay parents?
When angry parents confronted the headmaster, his list of excuses became more pathetic.
Many non-Malay parents were livid and demanded to know why their children had not been notified nor asked to participate?
The charge of racism was denied by the headmaster.
Is he not conscious of the ensuing fallout which will undoubtedly harm community relations and more importantly divide the school community further?
It appears that Malay schoolchildren learn how to become entitled and privileged early on in life.
What happened in this Johor school is institutionalized racism!
The headmaster said that around 40 Malay students might fail their SPM examinations and he claimed that the workshop would help them.
He also said their failure would reflect badly on the school’s rating in the league table.
The headmaster appeared to show more concern for targets than he is about providing good teaching.
He appeared to be more worried that his reputation would suffer and that the 40 poor performers would drag his name through the mud.
He voiced his fears that failure to achieve targets for SPM would be blamed on the headmaster. So, is it all about him?
Or did he use this excuse to hide the workshop’s true intentions behind the Ketuanan Melayu mask?
The headmaster said that parents and individuals had donated money to hold the workshop.
How fair and how true is this? How did the school or the headmaster manage to source money from these people without others knowing?
The actions of the school are discriminatory and racist.
Is the headmaster allowed to collect money from parents?
Malay parents enjoy the benefits of additional teaching for their children, a chance to catch up and also tackle the subjects which need serious attention. How fair is that?
However, the headmaster’s story is full of holes and he knows it.
Meanwhile, the role of the Johor Bahru district education office (PPD) is beyond belief.
How could they politicize education? It was reported that the workshop had been an initiative between the Johor Bahru district education office (PPD) and the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA), parent support group (KSIB) and the parent community and private involvement (PIBKS) to hold the workshop?
Why did the PTA allow itself to be manipulated with the racist agenda? Why deny the same opportunities for non-Malay parents?
All parents care greatly about their children’s education. How could the education department lie about this?
When faced with an angry public, the department issued a statement that a second workshop had also been organized for non-Malay students.
So, was this another attempt at damage control to pacify an angry public?
The department said that the first event was unsuitable for non-Malays because of Chinese New Year. So, when is the second event and will it stick to the same format?
How could the organizers not have timed the event properly? Aren’t all children allowed to celebrate Chinese New Year together?
The department appears to be ill-prepared and has been caught doing something wrong.
Fadhlina should put a stop to these discriminatory tactics because they are unfair, divisive and do not help the students.
It is alleged that in some cases, students are given questions that may be asked in examination. This is tantamount to cheating!
Some people have said that similar sessions have been going on for 40 years. Malays are given extra classes to help them before an examination and in some cases, they are allegedly provided with the questions and answers.
The education department and ministry must not condone cheating, nor should it be seen as encouraging such acts.
Fadhlina should not come to the defense of the headmaster and the Johor education department.
It is time she shows courage and integrity in abolishing this morally indefensible act.
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)