Thursday, June 05, 2008

Distribute scholarships fairly to those in need

The country has enough for all

Mahatma Gandhi once said "The world is big enough for all". Those were the words of a great man who fought for equality and justice.On the contrary man, with all his greed and selfishness, has discovered that the world is not big enough even for a selected few.Yes,our politicians find that the world has become so small that it is not enough even for them,let
alone being enough for the whole human race.

The race-based politics in our country has penetrated every aspect of Malaysian life.All institutions and establishment are run along racial lines.The people have been made to think only of their own race and do not care for those of others.The recent general elections appears to indicate the beginning of a change towards multi -racialism which is an encouraging sign but there are forces that tend to put a stop to that new developments.

The decision by the Public Service Department (PSD) to undertake a fairer distribution of scholarships for all the races is a step in the right direction. Increasing the quota for non-bumiputras from 10% to 45% is definitely a positive development as it would provide better competition among the students of various races. The non-bumiputras welcome the announcement with much joy, hope and gratitude whereas some sections of the bumiputras,like Umno Youth,were more cautious as they felt it could erode their opportunities for such grants.

Umno Youth is fearful that this would mean a loss for the Malays which is really unfounded. The unhappiness of Umno Youth is understandable but its admission that the non-bumiputras should be also be given more scholarships is reassuring and this new stance is a clear departure from its uncompromising stand of the past. In fact in a post-March 8 era it is encouraging to realize even many Malays appreciate the plight of poor non-Malays and are themselves urging the BN government to look into their needs.

A new trend may be developing where there is general acceptance, even among the Malays, that a neglected community however small it may be is a source of ‘threat’ to all in the long run. This new mindset should be encouraged to develop further so that a time will come when all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, will be made to feel equal. In a multi-racial country the well being of every community is importance for lasting peace and prosperity.

I am sure any ordinary person; including Umno Youth, will agree that the present 10% allocation to non-bumiputras, who make up 40% of the population, is grossly inadequate and unfair. It is particularly so when a significant proportion of the taxes is being paid by them as well. The mere 10% quota would imply that a significant number of non-bumiputras who excel in the studies are being denied such aid to realize their ambitions.

Year after year many high achieving non-bumiputra students from poor families are unable to pursue their studies due to financial constraints. This has contributed to the tremendous loss of ‘brains’ to the nation as a whole. If this trend continues how can we expect to effectively compete in a global world where only the best succeed? Racially inclined policies of the past have no place in today’s competitive world.

The government should provide scholarships not just to the maximum scorers but to all who qualify but cannot afford, so that no group will be left to fear of being robbed of its opportunities. The government could increase the total number of scholarships from time to time as deemed necessary but it should be fairly distributed to all who genuinely need them regardless of race. This would ensure that no excellent performers are left out because of their ethnicity.

The purpose of scholarships is to assist eligible poor students to pursue their studies in institutions of higher learning irrespective of race, religion or political ideology. Towards this end the PSD must review its policies to ensure that these ideals are strictly adhered to without any bias whatsoever. It would a great injustice if a high-performance student from a poor background is denied such assistance thereby forcing him to abandon his pursuit of academic excellence. It would not only a setback for the individual but also a great disservice to the nation.

The time has come for the nation to rise above the racial divide and unite for the well being of the nation. We may differ ethnically but we are all Malaysians, ready to share the fortunes and the misfortunes of our beloved nation. Let every Malaysian child be given equal opportunities in his struggles to realize his dreams and those of the nation. No community need to fear or worry as the country has enough for all. What is needed is to manage its resources with fairness and prudence.

However it must be emphasized that there is a limit to how much the government can give. The people too have a role to play. There is a need to discard the 'I take all' mentality so as to allow those who really in need access to these financial grants. Those who can afford should be considerate not to deny others from the lower income groups who are desperately in need of such assistance. Malaysians are known to be generous to the outsider but how generous are we to our own less fortunate fellow citizens especially of different race?

The government must heed the cry of all students, Malays and non-Malays alike, who have performed well, especially those from the lower income groups. It must work towards establishing our education system that will be based on true meritocracy that will not distinguish the applicants by race and creed but by his excellence, zeal and commitment to serve the rakyat.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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