THE formation of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) is indeed timely. The obvious signs of disunity have always been present in our society. They have now surfaced with a vengeance, as can be seen from the numerous police reports on religious issues, racial protests, the vicious remarks in the social media about the sovereignty of our kings and other issues.
|It is pointless to draft bills, pass laws and mete out punishments for racial violations if we are not ready to resolve this root problem. We have to consider the long-term impact of the lawful segregation of education on our young, innocent children. We cannot segregate them in their prime and expect them to come together as adults.
We must nurture children from young to respect each other’s religion and culture.
These could be just the tip of the iceberg and should be seen as a silent epidemic that needs serious attention from the government.
Ironically, while we are exalting in the elusive, multiracial “Unity in Diversity”, the “1 Malaysia” and the latest “Kitasama” concepts, the nation has yet to move beyond the fundamental hurdle facing integration, namely the segregated primary schools, independent schools and the religious schools.
These schools have racially compartmentalised our children, not only in education but also socially. The impact of such racial segregation in education on the young can be deep, wide and long lasting. Isolated from an early age, children from these schools are intolerant and rarely understand or respect the religions, ways and cultures of the other races. Some of these schools even become active breeding grounds for racism, extremism and xenophobia.
Coming from a multiracial school with many good Chinese and Indian friends, I find it sad that our children do not interact with the other races any more. Many will go on living their whole lives without making a single friend from another race.
Social interactions, when they happen, are superficial, guarded and lacking in openness. It is a complex, uncertain interaction imbibed from an early age with mistrust, fear and distrust of the other races. Most of these inhibitions and social anxieties would have been generated by our segregated schools and negative communal presumptions.
On hindsight, the bigger share of the blame for this should be borne by our education system. The great compromise in the Razak Report of 1956 had inadvertently allowed for national type or vernacular schools at the primary level. No other nation in the world allows for this. It is a continuance of the British divide-and-rule policy, which has divided us from the start.
Our leaders and the opposition know that this is the root cause of ethnic polarisation, social and commercial inequalities in Malaysia. In the proposed new National Harmony Bill, perhaps the NUCC will take a serious look at the issue.
It is pointless to draft bills, pass laws and mete out punishments for racial violations if we are not ready to resolve this root problem. We have to consider the long-term impact of the lawful segregation of education on our young, innocent children. We cannot segregate them in their prime and expect them to come together as adults.
We have to make it happen as it is really unrealistic to anticipate voluntary responses from our children without bringing them together. We must catch them young and mould them to be multiracial.
The main process should happen through the schools. However, since the right for these schools is enshrined in our Constitution and is irrevocable, the only option left is to make all our schools more multiracial. And, this must include the Chinese schools.
Chinese schools have a lot to offer. We can learn a great deal from them regarding financial management, discipline, hard work and dedication. Besides, their mastery of numbers is almost legendary. So, we must bring the Chinese schools into the mainstream by making them more multiracial. In fact, it is high time the other races learn the Chinese language and the subject should be offered in all our schools.
The first step forward is to allow national schools and Chinese schools to maintain their status quo in all things except student ratio.
This must be done with the consent of all the communities. Schools in big cities with an equal composition of the races should not be allowed to enrol more than 50 per cent of any ethnic group. The projects should then be closely monitored and researched by competent experts from the various races. Alkut, Kota Baru, Kelantan Letters 18 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:12 AM