Thursday, November 25, 2010

Be prepared to sacrifice for your children’s education

Posted on 25th NOV 2010
In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.
Praise be to God, the Sustainer of all the Worlds.
The Merciful, the Compassionate.
Lord of the Day of Judgement
Thee alone do we worship and Thee
Do we ask for help.
Guide us on the Straight Path.
The path of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy Grace
Not of those upon whom is Thy Wrath,
Nor those who have gone astray.
Ameen. (O God! do grant us our request)

TIME is running fast. In a month's time, we will be saying goodbye to 2010. School children are now busy enjoying their well deserved long holidays; schools would only reopen in the early days of January 2011.

I have three school-going children; a girl is in primary school while the other two are in residential secondary schools, one in Kuala Lumpur and the other in Malacca. Before the school holidays began, two of the children had brought home their booklists for the new school year. I had a glance at them, workbooks and exercise books for the girl in primary school cost about RM100 while for the boy in secondary school; I had to fork out RM124.30.

These payments are only for workbooks and exercise books, and for overall costs I was expected to spend some RM300 for my girl in the primary school (she also goes to a religious school in the afternoon) while for each child at the secondary level, some RM1,000. These payments include various fees, and for the children in residential schools; food, hostel, dhobi and Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) fees would contribute to the main bulk. So, I would need some RM2,500 to start off the new year with high spirit!

What a huge sum of money, but that was not the end of the story. More money is expected from me and my wife for settling the children’s needs such as new uniforms, bags, shoes and so on. And one has to settle the school bus fares before one's child is allowed to step onto the bus on day one. The rule is pay first, only then you would be allowed to use its service!

I have two other children; one is at university level while the other at a pre-U college. Thus just image how much money I had to fork to begin the new year. So it is very, very expensive to educate your child. Be prepared for it, in short one needs to sacrifice in bringing up one's children.

From what I had experienced, education nowadays is too costly. It seems like a commodity. The high expenses in education do not begin at the highest level but even at pre-school. For registration in pre-school, it is normal for parents to pay about RM200 a child at any kindergarten including the PAS-run Pasti. The monthly fees differ from a low RM25 at the Pasti to hundreds of ringgit at the commercial and so-called elite kindergartens.

At the primary and secondary levels, as I had mentioned above judging from my children's needs, parents have to pay hundreds of ringgit for every single child. A few years ago, the Ministry of Education announced that education was free in Malaysia, but the actual fact is that they only abolished the RM4.50 yearly school fees for primary pupils and RM9 for the secondary students. Luckily every child is now qualified for the school text book loan scheme. If not, parents involved have to fork out even more.

Several parents in conversation by the writer said on average they spent about RM500 for each child in primary schools. This includes his/her uniforms, bags, and writing material. Other than that they had to keep aside about RM50 a month for pocket money and another RM50 the bus fares.

For the secondary pupils especially those in residential schools like the writer's two children, the expenses double, amounting to about RM1,000. For these big boys and girls, their pocket money too has to be doubled from what they received at primary school level.

The cost of university education is even more exorbitant. For the public institutes of higher learning, it may be around RM1,000 each semester (not including food) each semester but for the private ones, I was told it may exceed RM20,000 per semester (all inclusive).

Since education is too expensive, several parents met said it is timely for young people to plan for their future by starting a special fund soon after a child is born. For example, the parents could put aside RM50 a month for the child’s education fund and when he/she is about to enter university, they would not be at a loss as how to finance their children’s education. Or perhaps they should buy an education policy from insurance companies.

Regarding the huge amount of money (about RM1,000) to be paid when a student enters a residential school, Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin who is also Education Minister recently said his ministry would study that development as the main objective of setting of ‘Sekolah Berasrama Penuh’ (SBP) was to have as many as possible underprivileged pupils especially from rural areas studying in such schools.

He said beginning from next year (2011), other than achieving excellent results in public examinations (UPSR and PMR), the background of pupils would also be the main criteria in selecting them into SBP with the ministry giving priority to those from poor families.

Prior to this, some children from poor families were said to reject offers to such residential schools, claiming they could not afford such an exorbitant fees. Imagine how the poor parents had to fork some RM1,000 a child during registration if they had a mearge income of RM500-RM1,500 per month; an amount normally earned by paddy farmers, rubber tappers, fishermen, factory workers and labourers.

To counter the high cost of education in residential schools, the ministry should think a way out; perhaps students from poor families should be exempted from paying food and hostel fees or even better begin a new concept of free education for all in all schools. Perhaps in a few years time, free education for all from kindergarten to first degree in universities could be available to the ‘rakyat’ in line with the government slogan ‘Rakyat didahulukan, pencapaian diutamakan’ (People first performance now).

But, for the time being, the ‘rakyat’ had to sacrifice (timely during the celebration of Eid Adha) for their children's education. Not long time ago ‘Pakatan Rakyat’ in their manifesto for the 12th General Election in March 2008, had promised free education for all, so why not give this side a chance to fulfill to prove their promise – so why not vote them in the next general election?

Perhaps Pakatan Rakyat could do what Barisan Nasional had failed to provide for the rakyat in the field of education since our country had achieved independence (merdeka) more that 50 years ago?

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