Ex-MP glad he missed Tamil school Children who go to such schools, which face an acute shortage of teachers and funding problems, end up as labourers, says the lawyer
By Leslie Lau IN KUALA LUMPUR
FORMER Member of Parliament M. Kulasegaran considers himself lucky.Simply because he did not go to a Tamil school.
'All those friends of mine who went to a Tamil school are now either lorry drivers, labourers or in prison,' he told The Straits Times.n Mr Kulasegaran, 44, is a lawyer working in Ipoh, and he doubts he could have read law if he had attended a Tamil school.
He grew up in a rubber estate near Lumut in Perak and was the second youngest in a family with nine children.'My father signed me up for Tamil primary school, but on the first day of school he did not turn up at home to take me there,' he said.
'My brothers then enrolled me in the English school and I escaped.'There are 520 Tamil schools in Malaysia, most of them located in plantations.Most are housed in rudimentary buildings with broken-down tables and chairs and no libraries. Many who study there do not make it even to secondary school.
The state of Tamil schools has been blamed by certain quarters for the social problems faced by the Indian community, long considered one of the most marginalised in Malaysia.
The recent racial unrest in Kampung Medan has also put some focus on the state of Tamil schools because the lack of educational opportunities has been blamed for the high crime rate and other social problems among the Indian community.
Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has described the conditions of these schools as deplorable and has asked the government for more assistance.He said that there were some schools with only two or three classrooms and there was even one where classes were conducted under a tree.
Sociologist Denison Jayasooria, of the MIC's Social Strategic Foundation, told The Straits Times: 'Generally speaking, Tamil schools cannot be solely blamed for the problems in the community.'Children from lower income families do not usually do wellacademically and many Indians are poor.'
He added that a majority of those who attended Tamil schools were from the lower income group.But he says there is a need for Tamil schools, arguing that vernacular education gave the community its identity.'I think the solution for the community lies in more affirmative action programmes irrespective of race. At least 30 per cent of the Indian community need some form of government intervention,' he said.
The MIC says Tamil schools must be improved to uplift the economically depressed community.A shortage of teachers and a lack of funding are key problems for Tamil schools, it says.Mr Kulasegaran said the problems were so acute that many Tamil school teachers did not send their own children to study there, preferring national schools where the medium of instruction is in Malay.
'There are few opportunities for anyone who goes to Tamil school. Generally speaking, these schools produce labourers,' he said.He and his elder brother are lawyers; other siblings work as lorry drivers and petty traders.
'Two of my sisters went to Tamil school and they graduated to become housewives,' he said.