By Mahathir Mohd Rais
The establishment of the Malaysian Federation on 1963 has kept us, the people of this country to stay united even during the harshest of times. Ethnicity, religion, political beliefs and the standard of living for each individual were put aside so that we could all thrive as Malaysians.
Although our country has a few internal unresolved issues, I believe that there is always room for growth. Keeping up with the current trends and demands in 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 to the current and future generations of our nation.
The largest ethnic groups in the country are Bumiputeras, which is 68.6 per cent of the total population. Among this, around 60 per cent of Bumiputera’s are still in poverty. Most of them are from Sabah and Sarawak, a prosperous land yet underdeveloped in many areas.
We should acknowledge the efforts that are being executed by the government which is, increasing funds to build the infrastructures in Sabah and Sarawak under the Budget 2022 initiative.
When it comes to education as well, it is evident that our country is trying to cater to Bumiputeras which is very thoughtful and reasonable. However, the problem is, the targeted groups in poverty aren’t exactly getting as much aids or help compared to those who are already privileged in terms of financial stability. Thus, most students that are getting Bumiputera grants, admissions to UiTM and matriculation program and other aids are those from families who aren’t part of the 60 per cent who are still in poverty.
This should be looked into very seriously because if this continues on, the poor will become poorer and the rich will become richer. The government should do a thorough search and collect more data to analyse the inequality that is evidently destroying the future generation of our country.
Leaving those in need behind will hinder our development as a nation. Depletion in economical stability, less technological innovations and talents left unseen by billions. What is the point of developing 50 per cent of the population when the other 50 per cent are still starving? The answer is simple, the is no point because our country have failed to protect those who are vulnerable.
Additionally, I believe that the government should give a wake-up call to privileged bumiputeras to be considerate to those who are underprivileged. It is called equity, where we learn how to be fair and impartial in order to achieve equality in the long run. If this agenda could be delivered to the public, change will happen. Even though the number won’t be significant, I can assure that even a small percentage of enlightened hearts could open up an ample of opportunities for the other bumiputeras.
To be very realistic, poverty and being left out in education are affecting not only bumiputeras but non-bumis as well. This has always been a very sensitive issue to be concerned about because we have two very different points of view. The first one is preserving the status quo, which is ensuring the Bumiputera rights are protected to a maximum level. The second one is about changing the ideology and status quo by including non-bumis, which then would lead to total equality in receiving educational grants and easier public university admissions.
The reality is that, it will be hard satisfy all non-bumis 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 to why such laws and privileges exist when we look at the data itself.
However, it must be noted that we can’t keep on ignoring the non-bumis 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-bumis are getting the same help as the others, we should increase the quota of grants and public university admissions for them.
A theoretical estimation would be increasing the quota for grants and admissions to 10 per cent for non-bumis. Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), 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 regretting it later.
About the author: Mahathir Mohd Rais is the Bersatu Segambut Division Chief of Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.
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