“The education of Sabahans is of utmost importance. Their future is at stake”
By Dr Jeffrey G Kitingan
“In conjunction with the DPM cum Minister of Education’s visit to Sabah, I urge him to return and re-empower the Education Department under Sabah’s own Ministry of Education so as to enable the Sabah government to better manage and plan for Sabah’s education and manpower needs to suit the local circumstances” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, noting that the DPM cum Minister of Education will be attending a briefing on the development of critical projects under the Education Ministry and a special meeting with Sabah Zone Teacher’s Training Institutions during his visit here.
The handling of Sabah’s education under the federal Ministry leaves much to be desired. Under the remote control of the Ministry from Putrajaya, the education system in Sabah has totally failed Sabahans and created problems for the schools, teachers and students and parents alike.
With due respect to the Deputy Prime Minister cum Education Minister, making a few trips to Kota Kinabalu a year for meetings without visiting the rural heartlands will not make the Minister understand the problems in Sabah. The scenario is made worse with political events included in those visits leaving little time for proper government business.
“The lack of voice or outspokenness on education in Sabah does not mean everything is well here” added Dr. Jeffrey. “It is just that public outcry and confrontation has never been the hallmark of Sabahans who are warm, friendly and accommodating.”
Like cancer, the tell-tale signs and symtoms of the failed system is evident everywhere.
The national education blueprint has failed to address the needs of the Sabahans and Sarawakians as it appears to be centred on the Malay national policy and Peninsula-centric. There is not even a footnote for Sabahans and Sarawakians who are ethnically not Malay but of diverse ethnic groupings, more than 31 alone in Sabah, and with different mother-tongues.
What is good and excellent for Malays and Malaysians in the Peninsula may not necessary be fine for Bajau-Samah, Bisaya, Kadazandusun, Murut, Lundayeh, Tidong, Brunei, Kadayan, Suluk, Iranun, Iban, Dayak, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Lunbawang, Ubian and the like in the Borneo States?
The rise in complaints on Sabah education including where even simple routine transfers of teachers and students from one school to another or to another district needs to be approved from headquarters in Putrajaya reveals simmering discontent and dissatisfaction with the system of federal control. The Education Director does not even have the authority to accept the resignation of teachers!
The suggestions by the Sabah Education Director to handle school affairs including repairs and maintenance of schools and the recent retirement of the previous Director and joining the opposition speak volumes of the hidden problems and cover up by the authorities.
The growing trend of non-Chinese enrolling in Chinese schools portray a lack of confidence in the education system and school syllabus corresponding with the drop in the quality of education in the national schools.
The recent calls by Sabah Umno leaders led by the Assembly Speaker and educators to empower the Sabah Education Director shows that it is time for the federal leaders to pay serious attention to the education system and its administration in Sabah.
Like the saying goes, “there is no smoke without fire”.
Like treatment of cancer, remedial surgery and removal of the cancerous part needs to be done. The present education policy need to be revamped to suit Sabah and Sarawak conditions respectively and the administration and management needs to be handed back to the respective governments. The public institutions in Sabah like Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Industrial Training Institute (Institut Latihan Perindustrian), Sandakan Polytechnic, MRSM and the like also need to be handed over to the Sabah government.
“The education of Sabahans is of utmost importance. Their future is at stake” added Dr. Jeffrey.
“We cannot continue to export our people to do factory jobs in the Peninsula and Singapore” rued Dr. Jeffrey as further proof of the failure of education in Sabah.
The federal Umno/BN government need to start treating Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners and not as the 12th and 13th subservient State of Malaya. If they need a lesson on the history of the formation of Malaysia in 1963, and not gaining independence in 1957, they should call up Tengku Razaleigh, who had advised the federal government to start treating Sabah and Sarawak as equals to Malaya before the discontentment boils over.