BERITA DAILY LETTER: From P Waythamoorthy, via e-mail

Hindraf is shocked that effective Jan 2, over 393 Tamil, Chinese, Sabah and Sarawak schools in rural areas have been subjected to multiple class combined teaching without any proper justification.

A circular from the director general of Education Ministry dated Dec 12, 2017, was circulated to all schools for immediate implementation

Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon claims that this is due to teachers shortage and 500 teaches are being trained to be absorbed into those schools for multiple class combined teaching in March 2018.

The United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) meanwhile does not see the need for combined classes because the problem of teacher shortage in Chinese primary schools had been solved.

Such contradictory statements do not augur well towards the wayward ways the education system is operated by the current government. It is surprising the government suddenly finds a shortage of 500 school teachers.

The students affected in the rural vicinity are those from disadvantaged backgrounds already suffer from impoverished family contexts and poorer out-of-school learning environments and the downturn in the economy is likely to have worsened their situation.

Lack of quality education and support may generate more severe negative effects and have a long term impact on them.

Although the government has exempted the Orang Asli schools from the multi class combined, it appears it is discriminatory towards the students from the rural areas who are somewhat in the similar state of the Orang Asli in regards to their economic state, high illiteracy rate of the parents, and their socio economic surrounding.

Families from higher socio-economic backgrounds in semi rural or urban may have more resources at home to compensate for less support at school, for example with private tutoring, but students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds may not be able to overcome these additional hurdles. So does it make sense to victimise these rural students.

The prime minister goes around boasting that we have the highest budget for educations amongst the Asean countries yet none of the Asean countries run multiple class combined teaching.

Hindraf views it totally unfair that the children in those rural areas are segregated and given such unequal education opportunity at such elementary stage with this wayward policy of the education department.

Malaysia, a signatory under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), must adhere to equality in education for all children in Malaysia and not one based on convenience of the government.

Principle of non-discrimination is clearly stated in Article 12 of Constitution and in the Child Act 2001, therefore the Education Ministry must provide equal opportunity and equal standard of education to combat discriminatory disparities against children belonging to vulnerable groups such of those from the rural schools.

Giving lame excuses like shortage of teachers and lack of budget only show a weak government without long term policies and plans to ensure all future generation Malaysian are provided with the opportunity with equal standard of education without any discriminatory practice like combining classes for those schools in the rural vicinity.

We urge the public office stakeholders, parents, NGOs and like minded citizens to question the government against such unjust towards these vulnerable rural elementary students.

P Waythamoorthy is the chairman of Hindraf