Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rejected by JPA - what do you think?

In the midst of the media circus that is the UMNO GA, this humble letter in Malaysiakini.com caught my eye. Since letters to Mkini are open to the public (without subscription), I've decided to reproduce it here, point out a few issues and ask for your comments. I'll let you read the letter first after which I'll write my own comments.

M Rafee
Nov 15, 06 4:16pm

My child was born as an intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) baby. The doctors had advised us to always monitor her health as she grew. They were worried some of her organs might develop problems. In fact, when they induced her to be prematurely delivered, one of the doctors told me that they anticipated her to be born without limbs. I had nearly fainted.

But with God’s grace, my child was born physically complete. Among my three children, she grew up to be the smartest. She obtained 5As in her UPSR exams, 7As in her PMR exams and 7As in her SPM exam. She did her matriculation and got clearance from the Ministry of Higher Education to study medicine in Indonesia, her childhood dream.

Me and my wife, who are both government servants, had already paid the initial payment of RM60,000 which is part of the total cost of RM200,000. For the balance, we applied for a loan from the Public Services Department (JPA). But unfortunately, JPA rejected our application.

Now I want to humbly ask JPA, is a RM150,000 loan request a very substantial amount, compared to the billions of dollars that have been abused in our country? The irony is that when we appealed, one of the officers had the cheek to say, ‘If you all can’t afford, why send her overseas to study medicine, just make her study any of the courses offered by the local universities’.

God willing, my child will one day become a doctor and serve the Malaysian rakyat. And she will definitely pay the loan installments once she starts working. All types of loans are given to bumiputeras and if there is a political connection, some of them can borrow millions of ringgit without the need to pay them back.

It is a well-known fact that some of the banks went ‘kaput’ after providing huge loans which later were declared non-performing.

Here we as loyal and high-performing (cemerlang) government staff are imploring for aid to allow their child to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor, but the relevant authorities are so inconsiderate that they don’t even bother to consider the parents’ long-term loyal service to the government.

Subsequently, we had no choice but to mortgage our humble abode to finance our child’s education to see our IUGR baby beat all the odds and become a doctor. Though at a very high cost for we are paying a monthly payment of RM1,100.


Okay, now for my thoughts.

Firstly, I find it surprising that his daughter wasn't given a JPA scholarship. Her PMR and SPM results seemed pretty good. (I'm assuming that M Rafee's daughter belongs to the Bumiputera category when it comes to scholarship allocation purposes) 7As is not 11As but I would have thought that it should be sufficient to obtain some form of government scholarship.

Furthermore, he mentioned that his daughter had obtained permission from the MOHE to go to Indonesia. I'm not sure what the implications of this are, but if MOHE grants you permission, isn't that a tacit approval of your chances to obtain a scholarship? (Most of my friends who went to England or Australia to study medicine didn't have to seek MOHE approval)

Secondly, M Rafee wasn't even asking for a scholarship but for a loan (usually JPA loans have lowere interest rates but they do have to be paid back).

Thirdly, both M Rafee and his wife are civil servants which makes JPA's rejection of their loan request seem even more implausible.

Fourthly, I'm not sure if JPA knew of his daughter's childhood health problems (I must admist I don't know what intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) is or what debilitating effects it causes) but if they did, shouldn't they take this into consideration when processing M Rafee's loan application?

Fifthly, I applaud M.Rafee for making a substantial financial sacrifice (by first, paying the 60,000RM initial payment out of his own pocket and secondly by taking out a mortgage on their house when the JPA application failed) to make her daughter's dreams come true especially given the fact that civil servants are not the most well paid of workers in Malaysia.

Sixthly and lastly, I posit this scenario for our readers to reflect and discuss. If we were posed this exact scenario and was told at the end that the letter writer and his daughter belong to the non-Bumiputera category, would our reaction stay the same or would it change?

Some food for thought.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

did she do well in her matric? only students who did well should in the local matriculation would be recognised for admission into a foreign university (altho, I'm not sure what indonesian uni requirements are). I'm curious as to why she did not get a place in medicine in the public uni and had to turn to other options...going overseas.

But, I really was touched by the girl's story and her childhood struggle to be where she is today. With such compelling story, I'm also surprised she wasn't offered a scholarship to pursue medicine by JPA back in her SPM.

With all the financial pressure, I can only pray for the girl to do well in her medical studies. There is a lot at stake here....

Anonymous said...

I would guess this family is Indian. Considering how he talked about the truth that "all types of loans are given to bumiputeras and if there is a political connection, some of them can borrow millions of ringgit without the need to pay them back." This is another example of discrimination in this country.

Okay, let's put races behind. What are the government doing spending RM 95 million to send someone to space? Those money would have find a better usage! What's the point of showing the keris in UMNO AGM while there are so many people, even the Malays need help? Why are they so obsesse with "Malaysia Boleh" and concentrate in the wrong place?

I really pity the girl and hope some foundation can help her.

Anonymous said...

my guess would also be that this is an indian family.

well,as a student,i know it is very difficult for us as non-bumiputeras to be chosen for the local matriculation.to be chosen would mean that she has done pretty well in school throughout.

this is where i think our government has gone all wrong.i think her parents deserve a lot more merit for being government servants.their pay are not that high.plus,what they applied is a loan and not a scholarship.

seriously,malaysia has got it pretty much all wrong in this area.to deprive an outstanding youth who prevailed through all odds does not send a right message to the nation.

Anonymous said...

If he's Indian, go see Sammy Vellu.

If he's Bumi, go see Hishamuddin.

If 2nd class East Malaysian bumi, go see Effendi Norwawi.

If Chinese, don't bother la.

DKR said...

It's sad to see this happen over and over again. But i have to say, how do you choose to help one person when there are thousands of people in the same predicament. Don't get me wrong, i'm not condoning the system here. I think it should be changed for fairness sake. But it's hard to choose one particular person to be given help when there are thousands more in a similar if not as dire situation as she is in. Even my parents, both lifetime civil servants had no chance of obtaining a scholarship let alone a loan for me to pursue my degree overseas even though I had already been admitted into a uni. And I'm sure my family aren't the only ones. What I'm trying to say, which has not come out as articulately as it should have, is that certain provisions should be made for children of civil servants that have served for a good number of years regardless of race. This would only be fair as these parents may have given up opportunities in business and other industries to pursue a career in civil service. I hope, in my lifetime, I will see the day when such a change comes about. What is a country without it's civil servants?

keropok lekor said...

Tony said,
"Firstly, I find it surprising that his daughter wasn't given a JPA scholarship. Her PMR and SPM results seemed pretty good. (I'm assuming that M Rafee's daughter belongs to the Bumiputera category when it comes to scholarship allocation purposes) 7As is not 11As but I would have thought that it should be sufficient to obtain some form of government scholarship.

Furthermore, he mentioned that his daughter had obtained permission from the MOHE to go to Indonesia. I'm not sure what the implications of this are, but if MOHE grants you permission, isn't that a tacit approval of your chances to obtain a scholarship? (Most of my friends who went to England or Australia to study medicine didn't have to seek MOHE approval)"

-Based on what my conversations with my fellow bumiputera scholarship holders, the bar for bumiputra students in the recent years has been raised to straight As in order to successfully secure a scholarship in Medicine, in the midst of increasing straight A students. For non-bumis, the bar is higher (straight A1s).

The MOHE approval is the recent government policy to prevent students from going to dubious overseas institution, which may not be recognised by the government. The so called "permission" is just merely a recognition, especially for universities in developing countries.

While I symphatise with Mr. Rafee's plight, I would say that the government cannot afford to fund everyone and anyone. Therefore it is reasonable that the officers being selective in giving out loans and scholarship. However, I believe that special consideration should be given to cases like this. The recent government move to provide financial assistance for poor high-acheiving students (household income < RM1500) is a good one too.

Tony said,
"I applaud M.Rafee for making a substantial financial sacrifice (by first, paying the 60,000RM initial payment out of his own pocket and secondly by taking out a mortgage on their house when the JPA application failed) to make her daughter's dreams come true especially given the fact that civil servants are not the most well paid of workers in Malaysia."

This is the scenario for most of the civil servants in Malaysia. While they would want to send their children overseas, many just can't afford to. And as we all know, many of the civil servants are Malays, and therefore many would have to depend on scholarships/loans alone, compared to those more affluent Chinese who mainly work within the private sector (sorry for generalising, but I guess its a good framework to understand the situation).

Therefore, in order to maintain/increase the SES (socioeconomic status) standard of the coming Malay generations, and also to narrow the income gap in the country, the Government has no choice but to favour the Malays in giving out financial assistance to increase their social mobility. While affirmative action is being exercised, I believe that it should not exclude real needy students (eg: the impaired, the poor, marginalised groups such as the Orang Aslis and rural Indians).

The experience of Mr. Rafee would resonate with many of our diasporic Chinese parents and grandparent's struggle to save every single cent, toil day and night, sell away/mortgage houses, or even give away their children, in order that their children will gain overseas education to secure a brighter future. The value of education, especially quality education locally and overseas, is placed highly by both rich and poor Chinese families, who will do anything and everything out to educate their children.

That may be also part of the reason that more Chinese parents tend to be picky and fussy about the standard of education for their children. Even the more superior Singaporean education system is not spared from criticisms from their own. There for I guess its more of a Chinese tendency to be fussy in making decisions for education (again, its generalisation).

Hope the stuff I wrote make sense, lol. Just my mind rambling.

All in all, I applaud Mr. Rafee's sacrifice. May many other civil servants follow his foodsteps, and I wish them good luck in their future undertakings

Anonymous said...

a few observations:

1. it doesn't matter what ethicity the author is - what's more telling is that if you're a nobody in Malaysia, then you're unlikely to get help, and here probably a fair and due consideration from JPA of the application.

2. I agree with the various comments that the country cannot afford to give scholarships for all straight A students. I think people will understand the affordability argument here. What I think people find galling is that if you're a son or daughter of so and so (and it doesn't matter whether you're Melayu, Cina, India or lain-lain), then you will whether your grades are good enough or not. As Tony P has suggested previously, we should have a category of scholarships where only the less well off are considered. In these categories, the offspring of those who fail the means test should not be considered even if they meet the grades - they can compete for Petronas, TNB etc etc.

3. how ironic that we now have to send our youths to indonesia to be trained as doctors (that's one up the nose of our middle class who only see Indonesia fit for supplying maids and construction workers). More importantly and worryingly, why do so few of our public universities have medical schools? There's no question that we have a shortage of doctors - the issue is why aren't we training more? I would suggest that we stop sending scholarship students abroad for medical studies - instead, we should use the cash to build more medical schools here and afford these guys places to do their undergraduate locally. With that, we can sponsor the cream for their crops for postgrad abroad. Not really fair if you're next in line for a scholarship abroad to Oxbridge, UCL, the Ivy League or Dublin but hey - national interests come first if your scholarship is from the govt.

Anonymous said...

DKR said, "What I'm trying to say, which has not come out as articulately as it should have, is that certain provisions should be made for children of civil servants that have served for a good number of years regardless of race. This would only be fair as these parents may have given up opportunities in business and other industries to pursue a career in civil service."

I don't think the government should give special consideration to civil servants. Working in the civil service is a career choice, just like any other, and if people "give up opportunities" in other sectors, that's their own decision and no one forced them to stay on. To expect special benefits is being unpatriotic (assuming patriotism, and not desperation, is what kept you in the civil service in the first place).

clk said...

To anonymous-16 Nov, 6.44pm:

"More importantly and worryingly, why do so few of our public universities have medical schools? There's no question that we have a shortage of doctors - the issue is why aren't we training more? I would suggest that we stop sending scholarship students abroad for medical studies - instead, we should use the cash to build more medical schools here and afford these guys places to do their undergraduate locally."

Good medical schools cannot be built overnight like any other schools. There is a question of shortage of teachers and facilities which cannot be found overnight given the very high cost unlike other "chalk & talk" schools. More importantly, the schools must be attached to a General Hospital (GH) for clinicals etc., not a private nor specialist centre. I believe nearly if not all the GH in this country are already tied to a med school hence there is a real limitation in building new med schools. Also don't forget unlike other schools the teacher student ratio is regulated to at least ensure a minimum standard of teaching.

Anonymous said...

Make more General Hospitals! Then you get more medical schoools and better health facilities for the rakyat in one go!

keropok lekor said...

I agree with CLK. It takes time to build a reputable medical school and you just can't increase the number of medical schools just for the sake of meeting demands. What if one day there is surplus of medical professionals? Just let the schools close down?

What I feel is that it is more important is to have a sustainable production of quality medical graduates (hehe, if production is a correct word), than to mass produce in order to meet the demands of the day. If Russia and Egypt can provide cheaper education (less than RM150,000, compared to IMU RM250,000), why not train our doctors there for a period of time? Its economics of scale.

Anonymous said...

make it mandatory for specialists in private sector to attach to universities for one or two year periods

Casper said...

In the west, there tend to be some 'disability' bonus points. Perhaps that should also be taken into consideration?

Civil servant and scholarship - in economic theory than it would all be part of a employment package offer. e.g if Company A offer RM1000 but promise to sponsor your children to go to university but company B pays RM1500 but does not offer that, then it could in a way save company A money by offering this package but yet keep the employee happy. As long as this is part of Civil service employment contract then I don't see a problem of preference being given to civil servant on certain scholarship scheme. (OK, such arrangement is not written in gov service employment contract, but I don't have problem with such arrangement if it is done openly).

Anonymous said...

Just apply for the Singaporean and Australian Government Scholarship Scheme if the JPA rejects your application.

Anonymous said...

Em,as far as i concern, JPA does not offer any scholarship except you apply for it. Maybe she didnt apply for JPA scholarship after she got her result..

Disatisfied said...

It's quite sad reading all the facts of life here. I myself have scored straight 11 A 1 and am active in school. But it's all proven again that it's all about your skin colour. I don't mean to sound racist but it's true. My classmates who are Chinese & Indians got 11 A1 & 12 A1 and they were very active in both sports and leadership activities.

However, none of us got anything. Not forgetting to mention that all of us were applying for BUSINESS courses not SCIENCES. However, the Malays in my school who were NOT financially poor(their father's are someone bigshot) (they come to school with personal drivers), they got an offer to UK, US and Australia eventhough their coco background was nil and their grades were only 7 A's and 8 A's only. This causes a lot of bad feeling within all students. How are we going to be PATRIOTIC? The government has failed in creating a peaceful environment within all races.

I understand that the government cannot fund EVERYBODY but the least they could do is to be more transparent or fair. Award those who are really in need of it not some Datuk or wealthy children who can afford it themselves. Everyone who is applying for the scholarship has already proven to be academically good so award those who really needs it. If the government continues this form of treatment, how are they suppose to win our election in the foreseeable future.

Lawa Wan said...

I served the bloody Army for 25 years. When my daughter got 11A1 in SPM I thought JPA have sone cow sense. At last the reply came "tidak layak". Then I went to see "Ong Cut Thing"'s people, JPA did not give a shit. Should have gone to Uncle Lee in Singapore and taken the ASEAN scholarship pathway. Anyway the blessing in disguise is that I struggled and got her into Australia and Australian will benefit from another well trained dentist in 3 years time. As for Malaysia bye bye bye

Anonymous said...

I concur with Dissatisfied.

How can the younger generations be more patriotic if such racist policy were to prevail?

I've heard of some Bumi's big shot's daughters/sons getting the JPA scholarship. I can understand that maybe these students were really good academically (because their big shot parents could afford to send them to big shot tuition centers etc) but how about those from the lower income background? Some of them were really outstanding yet they were denied such scholarships.

The most ridiculous in my opinion is that in one big shot family, two of the children were granted scholarships from JPA and Petronas (no price for guessing the correct race though)for tertiary education in the UK and the States. There have also been some instances whereby a sponsored student's family income which exceeded RM1500 were granted the scholarship.

I have only one phrase to describe this: Cakap tak sama bikin.

Anonymous said...

Nice article.
It's been 3 years since i've been rejected by JPA for scholarship.
I'm Bumi, straight A's .

Where does it slacks?

Parents doesn't clear the TAXES??

What the Hell is that going to do with me? Hahahaha...

bukan aku yg cakap kat parents kata : MAK..AYAH.. jgn bayar LHDN tau..

hahahhaa.. mane simpan otak i pon tatau.. orang mintak scholarship sbb parents dah bankcrupt.. ini lagi mau suruh bayar cukai.. lu sponsor la i study.. i balek kerja i clear the taxes... LUNATIC JPA!!