THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Friday, 7 September 2007

Free education? More help for the poor?

So, the yearly school fees have been abolished. Last year the exam fees were abolished. Text books will be made available to all. And the reports say we now have FREE primary and secondary education.

Really?

I have seen various lists given by various schools to their students at the end of last year and the school fees were only a small fraction of the total amount that the students need to pay. The fact that different amount needs to be paid by students of different schools shows that whatever fees that need to be paid or things that need to be bought are determined by the respective schools.

Let me recall the various items that I’ve seen on the various lists provided by the various schools…

They have PTA fees… tuition fees… computer fees… co-curriculum fees… and whatever else they can think of. In addition, the students must buy exercise books and a whole load of workbooks, some are written as optional, but most are compulsory.

There you go… that’s called FREE education.

OK fine, so some NGOs like mine try to help out by providing financial assistance through our Children Education Fund and the likes…

But just when we thought we settled their schooling needs, after a few months we find out that some of them are required by their class teachers to buy certain other books… not as an optional additional book, but a MUST for them to buy to be used in class. They even get scolded when they don’t buy the book.

I have to admit, there are some dedicated teachers from some schools who’d go out of their way to help the poor students. They visit the students at home if the students don’t turn up in school for a few days. They find out the family’s background if the students don’t pay their fees. But there are also teachers who don’t think of their students’ welfare and simply assume that these students lack discipline.

Speaking of visiting the students at home, it’s not what the teachers are paid to do, right? It’s just a social responsibility. Since the teachers are already burdened with a whole load of other things to do, I shall not say anything further on that.

So let me just move on to another issue… welfare.

Just recently my colleague who’s in charge of client’s welfare, liaised with the Welfare Department, asking about the status of Fuzi’s welfare aid. He was told that Fuzi’s monthly welfare aid (of RM115 per month to feed 5 kids) had been extended for another 6 months. But Fuzi has not been getting the monthly financial aid on a regular basis and I think I’ve highlighted this story a few times already.

What we’re trying to do now is to get Bantuan Kanak-kanak (BKK) for the single mothers like Fuzi instead of Bantuan Am. They’d be able to get more through BKK. My colleague asked the officer why Fuzi was given Bantuan Am instead of BKK. He was instead asked by the officer why Fuzi herself didn’t come to the welfare office to apply. God knows Fuzi had been to the welfare office before. She came in the morning; the officer was not in yet. The other staffs don’t seem to be able to help, only this ONE officer. She waited and waited, and finally she was told to come back after 2 pm. Since it was troublesome for her to go home first, she waited until 2 pm. Still, no sign of the officer-in-charge. Then she was told the officer had a meeting to attend.

When my colleague told this story to the officer he was liaising with, the lady officer asked, “Kenapa dia tak telefon dulu?” Yeah right… my colleague (who is OKU himself) had his own share of making appointments but still end up with disappointments! Most of the time, the officer-in-charge is in a meeting called at the very last minute.

My colleague then asked why the officers from the welfare department can’t visit Fuzi at home instead. Surely they’d need to assess the family instead of just interviewing Fuzi at their office. And guess what was the answer given to my colleague?

“Tak ada masa. Tengah sibuk sangat ni.”

Hmmmph!

So, while I am not complaining about the Budget, I am very, very skeptical about the funds reaching the intended recipients.

Will the hard core poor really benefit? For the moment I will just have to wait and see…

16 comments:

PrincessJournals said...

i would really like to see the gov support the poor school and school children 100% and then some. Its just not fair for those attending for e.g. damansara utama school to be given any help since well, they live in damansara. it wud be nice to see those schools in expensive area where children were dropped off by the chauffeur in big cars wud actually decline the help and instead channelled the money to help provide the poor kids with other school necessities. wont tht be nice?

and yes, the teachers and other gov servants should do more than just reading the text book (my personal experience) or handing out forms.

Pi Bani said...

Princessjournals,
Some schools I know set up specific funds for the purpose of helping the poor students. But not all schools seem to have such a thing. From my own experience handling children of poor PLWHAs, the ones in secondary school are the ones who are pressed by their teachers to buy so many things and to pay all sorts of fees other than the now abolished school fee. No wonder the children are so liat to go to school...

Yeah, it'd be nice if the money is channelled to the poor kids to pay for their other schooling necessities...

J.T. said...

Reports say FREE primary and secondary education but we all know nothing comes free that easily. This reminds me of those advertisements that promise you save a lot or get free this and that but we end up paying more for other things.

Fuzi's predicament with some government employees is a typical story. There will always be an excuse on their part why things cannot get done. There were a number of occasions when I called some government departments from Germany and the States for enquiries, only to be passed from one person to the other. Malaysian Embassy? Forget about it. They don't respond to phone calls or emails.

The only time I had some thing done efficiently overseas was by an Honorary Consul (a German). It took a foreigner to take care of a Malaysian's need in a foreign country. :)

Alamak, I digressed a little. I hope Fuzi's situation is sorted out. For now it is a wait and see ....

Pi Bani said...

JT,
Yep, in today's papers it's boldly stated there 100% free education. And some of those interviewed said that now there is no more reason for students to miss school and what nots. Parents are excited. But I shall wait until the end of the year when schools start giving out the list of "other" fees and "other" books to be bought... then we'll know how FREE it is.

Ah, so you too had been given the merry-go-round, eh? Imagine how it is for the uneducated poor to be given the merry-go-round. They'd probably just end up going back to square one every time.

Hussin said...

Pi,
I can understand your argument about parents having to pay many things for a free education, but the school need funds to run its activities. I've been involved with PTAs for a long time and we badly need funds to carry out our activities. The only way for us to get it is through the "Sumbangan PIBG" We cannot even call it "yuran". In theory, if anybody decides not to make this "sumbangan" there is nothing anybody can do. But at all the PTAs that I'm involved in we always make provisions for the really poor to be exempted from the fees. We also pay for their fees for other activities.

Actually, I could not understand the need to give free text books to everyone when the money for free books for the well to do students could be used for better things. I am quite sure most parents (who can afford them) would not mind paying the school fees if they know that the money is put to good use.

But whatever it is keep up the good work you are doing. We sure could use a few more Pis around.

Sallam

Pi Bani said...

Hussin,
Yes I know, the schools need funds to run activities. And yes, I have seen schools where the poor are given exemptions from the various other fees or sumbangan, whatever you want to call it. And yes, in theory, if they don't pay, there's nothing anybody can do. Nobody can chase them out of school. But trust me, in reality, there are cases where the students had been pressured by their teachers to pay up. Some were pressured to buy additional books. Some were pressured to buy uniforms for their co-curricular activities. Some were pressured to buy specific sports shoes. Not all the teachers are prihatin to the students' problems. They just pressure and pressure until the student becomes reluctant to go to school. I know, amongst the small group of families under me, I've handled a few such cases this year, mainly secondary school students. How can they concentrate on their studies when they are being pressured?

I agree with you and princessjournals, the money used to provide free text books for the well to do students could actually be channelled to the poor students to buy the other schooling necessities like workbooks and all.

For the time being, every year-end my NGO will assess the poor HIV affected families under us to see who needs financial assistance for their schooling. I'm sure there are many other poor families out there who are not getting any financial assistance.

winniethepooh said...

i remember always using 'hand down' text books from my sister or cousins..perhaps the money can be better used somewhere than textbooks which can always be recycled.

Hope that Fuzi will get more money soon, $115 for 5 kids even with the FREE education, it really cant last long..

u hv a great weekend Pibani

Pi Bani said...

Winnie,
Oh yeah... being the youngest, I used to get all those handed down books too. Now no more text books problems as the text books are provided free, but gosh, there are so many other workbooks that need to be bought and so many other fees (the kind I never saw during my schooldays) that need to be paid.

You have a great weekend too, Winnie!

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Pi,

Sorry lama tak jenguk mengacau...Sibuk ar...

I think you found another sceptic to teman you...Tengok budget, eveytime, for welfare, for disable all, memang cukup cantik the figures...

But see lar, got get or not...

For disabled for example, look at Aisya...Among one of the rarest cases in Malaysia pun cannot get help...

I hope those who need it will get the funding...Otherwise, to them, budget is just empty talk!

Pi Bani said...

Hi there Daph fellow sceptic ;)
Yep, our issue now is not the budget itself but more of the system... I mean the non-existence of a proper system in distributing the funds.

I rasa dah malas nak komen dah bab welfare ni but somehow something always tend to crop up and the excuses given are always so lame...

U.Lee said...

Hi Pi Bani, good posting. You 'simply hantam', ha ha, saw your comment at NP's place.
Pi Bani, to me whenever I see the government announce something "free" or 'potong tax' or 'giving $500 million to whatever, then ini tentu elections coming.
Once after any elections, the word "free" suda hilang from their vocab. And then they announce 'no money' for whatever.
There's always the small clause or a hidden catch somewhere.
Keep well, Pi Bani. UL.

Pi Bani said...

U.Lee,
Elections or no elections, the budget will always have something good for the people. The only problem is, the funds somehow don't get to the deserving people. And when something is announced as free, nothing is mentioned about the "hidden costs" behind it - like the various other fees charged by the schools other than the school fees.

Have a great week ahead, U.Lee.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

couldnt agree more with everyone. big chunk of money should be channeled to the disabled. u guys can hand over the donation directly to me....hahha..

acah2 je kak pi...its monday morning and i am bored already.

Pi Bani said...

Kerp,
Problem is we can't hand over the donation to you because we don't have access to the big chunk of money! ;)

Bored? Go kacau everybody's blog lah...

Nightwing said...

Helo Pi Bani, like u say, wait until end of the year and see..remember to cut down those news articles..later if did not deliver the promises...can use it to hantam.

U have a great week ahead.

Pi Bani said...

Nightwing,
I noticed this matter has already been brought up over the weekend. I guess on the first day everybody got excited and forgot all about the hidden costs... then when they start thinking about it, then they realised the other things that need to be paid.

But yeah, I'll just wait for the lists from the schools...