THE Education Ministry has announced the setting up of a total of 10 Chinese primary schools and the relocation of six others across the country.
The establishment of these schools will follow the ‘new model’ whereby the permit needed will not be a cumbersome problem.
Moreover, the school grounds have already been prepared, and this time around, the Chinese community will not foot the bill as the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) will request for funding from the Education Ministry.
Unlike the past when setting up or relocating new Chinese schools was a tedious process, the Education Ministry has now given the greenlight vis-a-vis the 16 Chinese primary schools in one go.
This is good news for the Chinese community but when word of the approval got around, doubts and suspicions began to surface.
The Chinese community has long called for more Chinese primary schools to be built and I believe MCA has all along been striving to achieve this objective and the present go-ahead from the Education Ministry is not secured overnight.
However, with the general elections only nine months away, even when MCA leaders claim the approval has nothing to do with the polls, it is still hard not to make a correlation between them.
A few years ago, SJK (C) PEI CHIH received a funding of RM3 million to relocate from Bukit Paloh to the north-eastern part of Johor Bahru. The relocation took eight months to a year to complete.
If we take this as an example in terms of costs, the setting up and re-siting of the 16 schools in question will amount to RM48 million.
In 2017, Chinese primary schools received only RM50 million in funding which was released in Nov this year. For 2018, the funding remains unchanged.
The locations chosen for the establishment of new Chinese schools has caused some concern among the Chinese community.
For instance, in Johor, the planned establishments of SJK (C) Sim Mow Yu at KongKong, Masai, and SJK (C) Kuek Ho Yao at Mount Austin seem to be lacking in the consideration of local needs.
Kong Kong, Masai, is an emerging development zone. Its remote geography aside, the area has a small Chinese population and whether it needs a Chinese primary school is open question.
SJK (C) KuekHo Yao, on the other hand, should be located nearer the densely populated residential areas of Adda Heights, Setia Indah and SetiaTropika but has instead been inexplicably sited at Mount Austin.
Of the six Chinese primary schools approved for relocation, four will be sited in Tebrau and the other two in Gelang Patah and Pengkalan Rinting. Both these constituencies are expected to see close competition during the general elections.
At the end of the day, education, apparently, cannot be separated from the politics – on either side of the political spectrum, it must be said.
The increase of Chinese primary schools in MCA-contested constituencies equips the candidates from the party with a powerful tool but it also puts them under great pressure.
If the candidates fail to win, it will be difficult for them to explain and justify their loss in front of their coalition partners.
Another pertinent question is whether or not the plan to set up new Chinese schools will be continued – or discontinued – after the exit of these candidates.
From all this, we can see it is more reasonable to increase the number of Chinese primary schools based on the needs of the population.
This will not only free MCA from political pressure but also put the development of the Chinese education above politics.
In fact, this is the best way to go for both sides.