Monday, September 05, 2005

"Provide Quality Education for All"

There's a poignant human interest story in published in the Malay Mail yesterday. It's a story about a 12 year old boy whose family was too poor to even have electricity at home, who was arrested for the seventh time last week for stealing - that's the "official" count. He started stealing when he was only nine years old.
"I'm not interested in school anymore. I just want money to spend at the cyber cafe. I want things that my family cannot give me. I just want to be like other kids - play computer games, surf the Net... I spent the money I made from selling the stolen goods on playing video games and chatting at a cyber cafe near my house."
Each of the previous times he was caught, he was let off with a warning. Not this time though.
Last Wednesday morning, he was caught, ...while rummaging through an office at Business Plaza in Taman Seri Sentosa.

He was with his 13 year-old partner and two older boys aged 15 and 16, from a gang called "Abang Boss". The two boys who masterminded the break-in escaped with most of the loot. He spent two nights in the police lock-up before his mother was called to bail him out. The 12-year-old is the second last child in a family of seven children.
His 50-year-old mother was reported to have "given up" on him. The family's combined incomeof RM1,200 was not enough for the expanding family. And they are now seriously contemplating handing him over to the Welfare Department hoping that it might help him to become a "better person".

When you read a story like the above, it really does not matter when it was a Malay, Chinese or Indian boy - your heart goes out to the family, and as a fellow Malaysian, you'd want to help. The way to help him get out of the poverty trap is not to donate cash for that will always be spent on short term needs, but instead to make sure that the education system works for him.

Hence it struck a serious cord, a few weeks back on August 20th, when our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi declared that:
There must be greater access to quality education... This would ensure that there were more skilled and knowledgeable workers to power national development.
Pak Lah has rightfully argued that those who were educated would at some point find employment. And even "if they fail to secure a job in either the private or government sector, then perhaps they should start their own business... One needs to go the extra mile to be successful."

Pak Lah's comments were reported in the NST when he launched a student adoption programme organised by the Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers (Bakti).
Through the programme, 455 students from poor families were placed under the care of 91 Bakti members. Each student will receive RM1,500 a year — RM1,000 in cash and the remaining RM500 in tuition fees for special courses.
When we look to help poor Malaysians, race should be a totally irrelevant issue. These poor kids should be provided an equal opportunity to succeed in life and contribute back to society through the universal provision of quality education. It should form the core of the Malaysian Agenda.

We can only hope that the members of his administration are listening.

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