by Dian Mashita
Just about 2 weeks ago, I was among the 120 government scholars who attended Biro Tatanegara (BTN) camp; it was basically a camp made compulsory for us to attend in order to deepen our understanding on the Federal Constitution and what 1Malaysia is all about.
I can’t help but notice that during the first 2 days there; before all of us were divided into groups enlisted by the organizers; in the Dining Hall, the Malays would sit with the Malays, and the same case goes for the Indians and the Chinese. Only one or two tables had the multi-racial ‘population’.
On the 3rd day of the camp, when all of us were assigned into 12 groups of 10; only then the tables in the Dining Hall were filled with mixed races; and this was because we were told to sit with our assigned group mates. This continued till the 5th or last day of the camp.
As I see it, this pretty much resembles how most of us Malaysians truly are. Most of us won’t mix around unless we’re told to.
“Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya”.
This Malay proverb reminds us that in order to change something, we have to start from the early stage.
Therefore, here comes what I truly am opposed to; vernacular schools.
Some of us were already racially divided since the age of 7; how could 10 years of being among the same creed without having friends of other races; truly unite us?
I’m afraid what we have right now, is merely tolerance.
We accept the presence of one another, but do we embrace one another as how at least a family should be?
Unity in Strength
According to Tan Sri Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim, prior to Malaya’s independence, vernacular school was set up by the British for the Chinese and Indians as they were very transient during those times. They were not looking to stay back in Malaya permanently, so British set up those schools to prepare them, and help them to get transitioned back to their home countries, if needed.
So, why do they still exist in this current time?
If the government is truly serious on conceptualizing the 1Malaysia slogan in reality, then there should only be one education system in Malaysia, where every Malaysian child could interact with one another and learn to genuinely embrace each other.
Although, I can’t deny that even in a national school with multi-racial students, some of them still prefer to group with their own people but won’t the increasing number of vernacular schools divide us more?
If one wants to learn their people’s own language (I did not say mother tongue because mother tongue is a language spoken at home, not necessarily by a race), then a special school could be set up as an extra class; just like how some of the Muslims attended national school in the morning, and religious school for another 2 hours in the afternoon.
I believe that for the sake of unity, all Malaysian children should attend the same kind of school; and if they must, learn the 3 languages of the 3 apparent majorities of this land: Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin and Tamil; because language is the window to the soul. If we can effectively communicate with one another then it could be the start of true unity.