When the Pakatan Leader announced that the Opposition political party will do away with education loans and ensure everyone had free access to higher education, the avalanche of BN machinery has come cascading.
Senior BN personalities have immediately dismissed the notion of free education. Their arguments ranged from maintaining that the nation would be bankrupted to one of one of putting the blame entirely on the head of DSAI. How pathetic.
But history is recorded. Let us take a trip down memory lane.
This is what Tunku said
In 1958 the late YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Haj declared, “Here I would like to emphasize that there is one thing the Government will not consider in terms of lack of money, and that is the question of education. In this case, the Government is giving special consideration in order to honor its education policy. The future of the country depends a great deal on the students of today.”
We did not have petro-dollars then; we did not have the highly profitable palm oil either. We were a poor, fourth-world nation that had just earned its independence after having lost so much wealth to feed and comfort the colonial powers. But Bapa Malaysia had that courage, determination and wisdom to recognize that education was the cornerstone for the future of the nation. He made it very clear that the Government must shoulder this responsibility fully.
And YTM Tunku encapsulated the role and responsibility very clearly – one that does not let money to be the impediment of education. If the money had to be found, it better be found so that every one can have free education.
And what Hussein Onn said
If that is not enough, let us hear out another Visionary Leader, the late YAB Dato’ Hussein Onn who held in 1979, “It has always been the Government’s desire to widen the opportunities and access to higher education for all. Tertiary education should not be confined only to those who can afford or those who come from higher income groups. But, it should be available to everyone who qualifies.”
Again, a right thinking Government ensured that there are no financial impediments to further education.
Then came Mahathirism
But look at what Mahathirism has yoked the rakyat with. Through all kinds of unprecedented privatization policies, crutches, favoritism, Ali Baba schemes, and what have you, the visions of our past Leaders were systematically dismantled and abandoned by the doctor who helmed the nation for 22 years.
And today when the students, unable to continue any longer with the burden of PTPTN loan schemes – given the spiraling cost of living and shrinking purse strings, raise the alarm what do we get in rebuttal?
> blaming the Opposition leader;
> challenging the opposition held States to go it alone;
> attempting to justify by stating that the Government already subsidizes the cost of education;
> taking high handed action against protestors; threatening that the country would sink into bankruptcy if education was free;
> accusing those in support of free education of becoming victims of populist ideologies – all of these despite having created for the select and privileged few a handful of billionaires;
> extravagant lifestyles for BN leaders and their families;
> recording eyebrow-raising profits year in, year out for some select companies;
> and what have you.
Just shut up and study!
One cannot question the wheeler-dealer mega million businesses inked under cloak and cover of the Official Secrets Act (OSA); arresting and shutting down people in the know who question such deals with the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) and beating up people with scare tactics and chemical laced water cannons if they protest in public.
"Your job students is to shut up and study, otherwise we will throw you out" has been the all too often threat billowed down the necks of students who moaned and groand under the trying conditions.
Too busy with bailouts for cronies
It is not a problem to pump billions of ringgit into loss making Government ventures; it is also okay to rescue sons and daughters and proxies when they hit troubled financial waters, thereby costing the nation’s coffers millions of ringgit.
So Mahathir set in motion an idea that was contrary to what YAB Dato’ Hussein Onn and YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Haj had about education. For the Tun and BN, education cannot be free. If you want we will lend you some money but you better pay up or else we will come after you like a blood hound.
Today when it comes to education, all the way from pre-school to the graduate corridors it is money making. From school bags to pencils, from text books to workbooks, from sports to extra-curriculum activities, from projects to examinations – it is money. Even to get to do your mandatory internship, you have to fork out your own money because the pittance paid by some organizations cannot even buy you one lunch every day.
No money, no talk.
And on top of that you have to borrow from your own Government and earn your guts out to make good all payments.
When do we say enough is enough? When do we say the buck stops right here? When do wake up and see the whole truth? And how?
It is only when we are all agreed on the answers to these questions can we start back from where our founding fathers YAB Dato’ Hussein Onn and YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Al-Haj left us.
Otherwise, we are headed in one direction – all the way downhill for a crash landing. But by then the pilots would have fled to their havens under the pretext of giving others a chance to lead, you know.