The Colour of Scholarships

By Azira Aziz

Considering the function of academic scholarships and thereto just who should be entitled to scholarships.

When Najib proposed to open scholarship opportunities to all top scorers, particularly 9A’s and above, I saluted the move and thought nothing more of the matter. A politician buckling to popular tit-bits is nothing new and at least he’s heading in the right direction. However, it irked me as the usual Malay-rights groups, the Perkasa-led Malay Consultative Council (MPM) responded to it with “constructive” criticisms, claiming that it should reflect 67% composition of the Malay community in Malaysia.

My response to this is this: firstly, Professor Datuk Dr Kamarudin Kachar, not all 67% are Malaysian Malays. Some of them are actually assimilated Indonesians whose parents holds red MyKads. Many Malaysians are denied opportunities on the fallacy that they are of the wrong ethnicity and that they are less likely to be “loyal” to Malaysia. Instead, as long as you are a “Malay,” “imported” or not, you are entitled to a scholarship, and admittance to heavily subsidised boarding schools.

My point is not that Malaysian-born students of Indonesian parentage who are intelligent enough do not deserve scholarships by virtue of their parents being immigrants. On the contrary, hard work and diligence should always be rewarded. I know some of these kids – they’ve studied hard and they should be awarded where deserved. I am simply pointing out how our education system discriminates Malaysians.

It is ridiculous that descendants of immigrants are awarded privileges denied to generations born and raised as Malaysians on the basis of race and religion. The argument that affirmative action policies are meant to help the Malays falls here. Right to education in Malaysia is distributed to her citizens on the basis of race and religion is sanctioned by the State on no moral or ethical grounds, but purely on the “in-group vs. out-group” mentality. Why develop descendants of immigrants while neglecting and disparaging our own purely because they are different from the acceptable “original” settlers of Malaya?

Secondly, for many people tertiary education is the only way to break the cycle of poverty and as a means to social mobility. In short, education is the only way to help provide for your parents and your siblings. It is the only way you can protect the rights of your family and your properties against bad people. It is that golden gateway to a better life. The cycle of poverty is not specifically restricted to the Malays in the rural areas.

There are the rural and urban poor, and despite the differences in skin colour, private religious beliefs, and dietary preferences, they are no less human than your average Muhammad. Everyone is the same; we worry about grades, food, shelter, girlfriend/boyfriend, parents, allowances, and etc. It is our political parties that continuously indoctrinate us into thinking in terms of “Malay” and “non-Malay” as “human” and “less human,” or “us” and “them.” There is no reason whatsoever for racial quotas for scholarships as we are all Homo sapiens – human beings who are essentially the same and deserve the same rights.

Thirdly, I have observed that Malays as a community celebrates mediocrity. The concept of fear, self-guilt, insecurity and excessive emotional response is propagated through the most dangerous of tools – religion. Even places of worship; such as the surau and mosques are not exempt from political intrigue. I am sick and tired of watching and listening to beautiful scriptures of the Holy Quran taken out of context and manipulated to suit the purposes of the elite, wealthy, and privileged to maintain their power base. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, the scripts werre all written and approved by the state’s religious body, but it does make it more questionable, does it not?

It is no secret that as a collective, humans are fairly obtuse. The common sense of the pacifist few often escapes them, and therefore the masterful skill of the other few who promulgates hatred, suspicion, and utter ignorance carries more conviction as truth than the message of universal love and harmony. How Malays love their drama enam petang! The ever present threat of imaginary enemies was created to divert blame and responsibility from themselves.

Fourthly, I do not see this as a point of conflict for anyone affected by the change of policies. The way I see it, the Malay boys and girls will instead be told that they actually deserve the grades that they acquired through their own sweat and midnight oil-burning, to have the self-esteem to do whatever they set their minds to, and that they do not need crutches to achieve their dreams and help their families.

The only people who dramatise an otherwise positive move for all youths in this country, are people who feel threatened by the lack of dependence and growing confidence of the previously trodden majority – those who feel that to keep being relevant, they need to bully and put others down to feel better about themselves.

Finally, I recommend several criteria as a basis of Federal Scholarships. Scholarships should only be awarded to members of the lower-middle to poverty level students who exhibited excellent co-curricular achievements as well as good academic grades. A well-balanced individual is the best product that could be produced by only the best of institutions.

Students from this demographic tend to appreciate their education more, as well as the public knowledge of taxpayer monies well spent. Furthermore, the upper-middle class and above should be completely disqualified from eligibility to these scholarships, and should instead be encouraged to take up PTPTN or consider other financial options.

Most of them can afford private education, anyway. Another favourite suggestion by a friend of mine is to completely do away with overseas scholarships and force everyone to study in local universities. This is due to the fact that once given an opportunity to go abroad, the precious few brainy ones upon considering the socio-political circumstances in Malaysia, choose not to return. Our education coffers shall also be saved, and can be channeled to improve dilapidated Tamil and Orang Asli primary or secondary schools or increase salaries of long-suffering teachers.

For the record, I turned down scholarships because I genuinely believe that it should go to people who really need them. I find it unfair that students who can afford original Guess, DKNY and Chanel were also awarded scholarships when they obviously need it not.

My, what a long rant in reply to one man’s few sentences. Well, I have said my two cents. In conclusion, I truly believe on Federal Scholarships for those who deserve it by merit and based on their family’s financial background. Any thoughts, anyone?

LB: In her own words – Azira Aziz is a mongrel Malaysian who hopes to have “Malay” and “non-Malay” relegated as a relic of the past sometime in the future. A graduate from UiTM, and is currently undergoing training to become a lawyer.

  1. #1 by sanir6 on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 9:59 am

    Mr Lim,
    The trend will not change in the next century I believe. your thoughts i fully agree wholeheartedly. Assimilation between the races cannot and will not become until there is unity and unity can come only whence there is fairness. The holier than thou attitude is prevalent among each race here.Be it Malay Chinese and/or Indians. Each race does not trust the other.To trust…lewayy and fairness must be incepted.In Islam…there is no difference between races n religious believes.Yet for the virtue of POWER…people misuse it.Begging your pardon for my thoughts

  2. #2 by ktteokt on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 10:11 am

    Just when is Malaysia and its so-called LEADERS going to be COLOUR-BLIND?

  3. #3 by frankyapp on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 11:28 am

    Perkasa please tell me what’s the original colour of the malays ? All I’m seeing now is there are malays darker than black,there are malays whiter than white and there are also malays who are a mixture of yellow and dark brown.Frankly in malaysia,one can hardly see a genuine malays. All I know is that the malays come from the Indonesian stock and hence malays are the origin of Indonesia.Other so-called malays are actually from the Indian hindus stock basing on the discovered lost civilisation city in JB. Yea I agreed that upper class malays should be disqualified for a scholarship and instead be given to the poor malays. It’s pretty rediculous just because you are malays,you automatically get a scholarship despite the fact that he/she comes from a multi-million or billion family. I think it’s time the government should give scholarship to any deserving child coming from the lower and middle income family irrespective of the colour of their skin.

  4. #4 by BoycottLocalPapers on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 11:38 am

    Under my book, giving the bread to the Malays and the breadcrumbs to the non-Malays is still okay. Unfortunately, that is not happening in Malaysia as UMNO regime and PAS Kelantan prefer to give the breadcrumbs to the Palestinians.

    Why UMNO regime & PAS Kelantan are giving scholarships to Palestinians instead of Malaysians of non-Malay descents?

    Malaysia is truly a hopeless country for non-Malays.

  5. #5 by limkamput on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 12:56 pm

    Azira Aziz, we want to believe you that you belong to the few who are not obtuse and have the genuine love for humanity. Good, join the DAP today, I am sure you will be given ample opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the cause you so eloquently wrote.

  6. #6 by k1980 on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 1:45 pm

    Lets suppose 2 students, the first from a family which earns RM9,000 a month and the second from a family earning RM900 monthly, both scored SPM 10As as well as being equally active in sports and Co-Curricular activities. And there is one 1 scholarship left for them. All the other scholarships have been sapu-ed by Perkosa.

    The student from the poor family should be given the scholarship on the grounds that his parents would be unable to support his further education. Don’t consider non-relevant issues such as race, political connections and the like

  7. #7 by artemisios on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 2:11 pm

    Thumbs up Azira.

    Perkasa & umno is trying to scare the Malays (again) into thinking they will lose their rights in a fair system, when in truth a fair system will only make the Malays stronger.

    But the Malays gaining more confidence is the ONE THING Perkasa & umno DON’T WANT. For confident & competent Malays can easily see through their lies.

    Bad news for perkasa & umno: Most Malays already ARE confident.

    When their lies & scare tactics fail, they will realize this fact. BUT they’ll want to cling to power no matter what. So they might employ EVEN dirtier schemes in hopes of creating racial tension. (e.g. the current flat-out lie of “40:1” non-malay to malay new voter registration on a Malay newspaper in attempt to intimidate the Malays)

    They might go further. I dare not imagine what they’ll try next in order to created hatred against the non-malays, especially chinese.

    I hope the most Malays will be calm & look closer.

    I hope they’ll realize perkasa & umno are only using them… shouting & yelling about how they want to defend Malay rights… when the Malay rights are not under any threat whatsoever

    And when the Malays are confused with anger…. they get to continue to steal from them. This is hypocrisy beyond reason.

  8. #8 by sanir6 on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 5:23 pm

    Psychological games are abound.Always done by those in power.To control people there is only 3 ways Love,Hatred and/or Coercion aka mind control.It is a fact of life that no one will strive to better themselves when there is no challenges.Mahadthir once stated that “Melayu mudah lupa” and “Melayu perlukan tongkat” he was and is very on the dot on those remarks.MCA/MIC/UMNO/PAS/Semangat? hishh.I dont see them prevailing any rights except those in the upper echelons. The Star today and yesterday did a series on the homeless this encompass all people of all races!!!The government with this propaganda of “FOR THE PEOPLE”. I dont see them living on the streets?I dont see their kids with the other COMMON people.Hell I dont even see any of them at any local eaterie!!! Safety reasons is always the excuse given.HAAAAA what a lame excuse.Leaders can always be changed.What pure nonsensical nonsense.I see all the relevant people in power with Merc/BM’s.Just to do a ploy you see Perdanas but of course.So what is the answer? People power? Not this way. We dont have enough manpower.hisk.I am very sad

  9. #9 by monsterball on Tuesday, 20 July 2010 - 6:36 pm

    “People First. Performance Now”
    Malaysians must accept UMNO B choice of selected people.
    Other races have accepted ….”People First….” is nothing but an empty slogan.
    Now the same race of UMNO B….the Muslims can feel and see the double standards to his own race….applied by UMNO B.
    UMNO B vowed to defend the Malays….but it seems local born Malays with hundred of years roots in Malaysia….not important.
    It seems that UMNO B feels they can manipulate with his own their weaknesses are always race and religion…becoming mild and meek…ever forgiving….through decades of such dirty politics.
    But it is nice to read…one such as Azira is speaking out and surely thousands of local born Malays should open their eyes and minds and learn the truths of theses corrupted devils…managing our country.

  10. #10 by Peace88 on Wednesday, 21 July 2010 - 9:55 am

    Sensible words Azira. Love your view on this matter and agree whole-heartedly with you. Scholarships for all deserving poor to lower middle-class students who do well in their final exams, irrispective of race.

  11. #11 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 21 July 2010 - 1:52 pm

    Yes, indeed, students who can afford original Guess, DKNY n Chanel should not b given scholarships
    We need more economically sound Malays 2 think like Azira – spread d national wealth 2 benefit rakyat who r economically disadvantaged, regardless of race

  12. #12 by PoliticoKat on Sunday, 25 July 2010 - 11:34 pm

    “This is due to the fact that once given an opportunity to go abroad, the precious few brainy ones upon considering the socio-political circumstances in Malaysia, choose not to return.”

    That is the pull factor, the socio-political conditions overseas are very attractive compared to the toxic swamp in Malaysia.

    However you forget the push factor. Once we graduate with our nice high powered degree, we often can not find jobs in Malaysia.

    I spent 8 months applying for jobs once back in Malaysia. Thankfully there was the Internet and I spent few applications to companies in UK and US.

    And guess what!? I got replies and job interviews for positions overseas but not a single reply in Malaysia, the country which I am a citizen and was currently staying in!

    What more, my experience was not unique, the few people I know who returned to Malaysia have the same experience. People with foreign degrees can be unemployable in Malaysia.

    Although one person did get a job as a production editor. The only job requirement- the ability to write English fluently. Talk about wasting an engineering PhD. That girl could built you jet engines and you have her working as an outsourced editor for American law books.

    There is something wrong with Malaysia, if a Malaysian citizen can more easily find a job in the US over the Internet, then a job in KL, Penang, or JB.

    The is something wrong when we have an aeronautics engine designer working in a job whose only high tech requirement is a good command of written English.

    So don’t go blaming foreign grad for all leaving. Some leave because they want to. Some leave because we have no choice.

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