THE establishment of the Malaysian Federation in 1963 has kept us, the people of this country, united even during the harshest of times. Ethnicity, religion, political belief and the individual standards of living were put aside so that we could all thrive as Malaysians.
Although our country has a few unresolved issues, I believe that there is always room for growth. Keeping up with trends and demands of society will certainly impact the development of our country, which is why it is necessary for those in power to ensure quality and equal education for the current and future generations of our nation.
The largest ethnic groups in the country are Bumiputera, who make up 68.6% of the population. Sixty per cent of this group are still in poverty. Most of them are in Sabah and Sarawak, prosperous states that are yet underdeveloped in many parts.
We should acknowledge the efforts of the government to increase funds in Budget 2022 to build up the infrastructures of Sabah and Sarawak.
When it comes to education, it is evident that our country is catering to the Bumiputera, which is very thoughtful and reasonable. However, the problem is, the target groups in poverty aren’t getting as much aid compared to those who are already privileged in terms of financial stability. Thus, most of the students who are getting Bumiputera grants, gaining admission to UiTM, enrolled in the matriculation programme or receiving other aid are from families who aren’t part of the 60% who are poor.
This should be looked into at once because if it continues, the poor will become poorer and the rich, richer. The government should do a thorough study and collect more data to analyse the inequality that is evidently destroying the future generations of our country.
Leaving behind those in need will hinder our development as a nation. It will lead to depletion of economical stability, less technological innovations and wasted talent. What is the point of developing half of the population when the other half are starving? The answer is simple, there is no point because our country would have failed to protect those who are vulnerable.
Additionally, the government must remind the privileged Bumiputera to be considerate of those who are underprivileged. It is called equity. We must learn how to be fair and impartial to achieve equality in the long run. If this agenda were to be embraced by the public, change will happen. While the change might not be significant, one can be assured that even a small percentage of enlightened hearts committed to the cause will open up ample opportunities for other Bumiputera.
To be realistic, it is not only the Bumiputera who are in poverty or who have lacked access to education. This has always been a very sensitive issue of concern because we have two very different points of view. The first is to preserve the status quo, which is to ensure Bumiputera rights are fully protected. The second is to change the ideology and status quo by including non-Bumi on the agenda, which would lead to total equality in the disbursement of educational grants and public university admissions.
The reality is that, it will be hard to satisfy all non-Bumi groups in this case. The reason being is because the majority of the ethnic groups in our country are still underdeveloped compared to the minority. It is understandable why special laws and privileges exist when we look at the data.
However, it must be noted that we can’t keep on ignoring the non-Bumi because Malaysia is their country too. They are the people of this nation and they pay their taxes just like everyone else. Which is why, to ensure that the underprivileged non-Bumi are getting the same help as the others, we should increase the quota of grants and public university admissions for them.
A theory would be to increase the quota for grants and admissions to 10% for non-Bumi. Universiti Teknologi Mara, being successful in developing students with bright futures should be the leading governmental university to start this initiative. This will cause a domino effect to the other public institutions to do the same thing, especially the matriculation program.
This will ensure that the future generation, despite being different in race, religion and political beliefs can still develop Malaysia together. Just like how our respectful leaders worked together for our independence, the younger generation must also work together to bring advancement in technology in terms of space, biological and chemical sciences.
This will be a first step for the people of our country in ensuring equity and equality at its’ finest tune. We have a long way to go to achieve greater things in the unknown future. If we don’t learn how to save our people today, then there will be no tomorrow to look forward to.
If we are to look at our country from an international perspective, this just means that we are advancing along with all the developing and developed countries. A change like this is inevitable so we might as well do something today instead of doing nothing and regretting it later. – January 15, 2022.
* Mahathir Mohd Rais is Segambut Bersatu division chief.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.