Politics Palestine And The Plight Of Malaysian Education
We have to admit that the Malaysian education system is far from being free and neutral. It is heavily influenced by politics of the day and driven by politicians with a certain agenda.
There is a great danger of the education system becoming radicalised and hijacked by certain quarters for their own motives.
At the tertiary levels, we have seen the Malay Dignity Congress, at which academics partook in a political agenda solely focusing on one race and religion. The bigoted and Malay-centric resolutions that came out of the convention didn’t sit well with a lot of people.
Then we had the introduction of ‘khat’ or Jawi calligraphic script in the school curriculum, taking away valuable time in teaching the three R’s.
Not to be outdone, the Madani government introduced the ‘Imam Al-Nawawi 40 Hadith’ appreciation module for Muslim schoolchildren in public schools, which the education ministry said is meant to curb radicalism and extremism in the community.
The Palestine Solidarity Week, sanctioned by the education ministry for schools nationwide, drew flak from all sides, especially when video clips and pictures went viral showing teachers and students wearing the garb of resistance fighters and brandishing guns in school compounds.
Minister’s emotional response
This shocked many people and resulted in a huge outcry from parents and civic societies, with education minister Fadhlina Sidek responding with an emotional speech in Parliament.
“Give us space to carry out our responsibilities and focus on the education of humanity. Stop disturbing us. Don’t interfere with our schools or teachers,” she said. “Please understand that this is an important message to educate on humanitarian values.”
What “humanity” or “values” is she referring to?
The humanities are academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture, including fundamental questions asked by humans. Nothing can be learnt by masquerading as gun-toting Palestinians in school compounds.
What happened to the “40 Hadith” appreciation module to curb radicalism and extremism in the community? What is the role of the Islamic development department (Jakim), to which the government has allocated RM1.9 billion for the management and development of Islamic affairs in the 2024 budget.
Getting our money’s worth
The federal education system has yet again got the lion’s share of the budget, with RM58.7 billion for the education ministry and RM16.3 billion for the higher education ministry, for a total allocation of RM75 billion.
That amounts to a whopping 19% of a national budget of RM393.8 billion. With such a big budget for education, the public, as taxpayers, have the right to question the goings-on in the school system.
We would expect that these budgets are to be used wisely and not on bringing sanctioned politics to schools on the pretext of teaching humanities with plastic guns.
There is no kindness when staring down the barrel of a gun, and there is nothing righteous about revenge killing.
Danger of simplistic thinking
The history of Palestine and Israelis goes back for centuries; even adults find it hard to comprehend the taking of human lives in these conflicts. Children should not be subjected to adult politics which they may not understand.
The other danger is that the Palestine-Israel conflict is turned into one between Islam against Christianity, or that the conflict will turn into a battle between Islamic nations and the Christian West.
That view is very simplistic, and Malaysians should be wary about where this path will lead us. Such narrow views can create a greater chasm in multi-religious, multi-cultural Malaysia, with schoolchildren and educational institutions forced to choose one side or another.
Everyone has the right to protest, but please do it outside the sanctity of schools.
Why we have age limits
The reason we have age-limits on voting, drinking, and marrying is because we know those below certain ages need to be guided before they reach adulthood.
They are at a vulnerable stage of their lives. So it’s only natural that the sight of schoolchildren dressing up as gun-toting Palestinians and parading in school compounds in support of the Palestinian cause will cause alarm among parents and educationists.
Social media postings reflect Christians and Muslims taking a religious stance on the Palestine-Israel conflict, justifying each other’s actions rather than focusing on the loss of human lives.
Schoolchildren will also be dragged into international politics along similar lines.
Charity at home
A weeklong event organised by the education ministry has managed to raise RM9.2 million in donations for embattled Palestinians. There is nothing wrong with that. Malaysians are generous people in times of need.
But what about the poor and downtrodden Malaysians? Don’t they also deserve the same humanity and compassion?
There is a saying that charity begins at home. We should do that by teaching our children to care about their surrounding communities and environment. - FMT
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.
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