Monday Oct 12. It is Columbus Day in America. It is also a week of educational genocide in Kelantan, Malaysia. A sad day for both countries. Our prayers to the Orang Asal children of Pos Tohoi, Gua Musang who perished; may their souls lay in eternal peace, away from this world of educational misery created by those who do not know what education means.
In the history of the United States, the name Christopher Columbus is generally associated by the Native Americans with genocide. The conquistador, whose expeditions to the ‘New World’ were financed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, yielded not only a passage to ‘America’, (named after the mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci,) but brought more Spaniards to the new-found land and which led to the massacre of thousands of Arawak Indians, as the late American historian Howard Zinn argued.
Columbus should have been educated of the need to respect the cultures of the ‘American natives’ or Orang Asal Amerika, but also learn from them what ‘civilisation’ should mean and what ‘education and cultural action for freedom’ should look like.
The poignant and horrifying story of the death of schoolchildren in Gua Musang, Kelantan of the Orang Asal of Temiar origin is an example of how education, that ought to be a gentle profession has turned genocidal.
How is this so, and what does it say about the state of educational evolution and crisis of cultural degenerative proportion Malaysia is in?
Seven types of schooling
Since independence, and as a legacy of British colonialism of divide and conquer as well as following the mould of Americanism, Malaysia has developed seven types of schools namely,
1) POWER SCHOOLS, i.e. international schools meant for the rich and powerful who will compete and collaborate with children of expatriates and to save children from the children of the poor and of the natives;
2) PRIVATE SCHOOLS, i.e. most often very expensive ‘breakaway schools’ meant to save children from poor teaching, overcrowded classrooms, and to save children of the rich from those of the lower and middle class;
3) PRIVILEGED SCHOOLS, i.e. well-funded boarding schools built to safeguard racial privileges and to instill ketuanan Melayu amongst children who did well in their kampong schools to be saved from the schools for the poor, to groom them so that they will become leaders that will protect the rights of this or that race;
4) PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS, i.e. schools that sustain the transmission of of this or that culture based on the perceived superiority of this or that language, culture, and religion, so that the children will be saved from being washed away by the tide of cultural change brought by the children of the poor;
5) PUBLIC SCHOOLS, i.e. government schools that sustain the ideology of the ruling regime par excellence and en mass, deploy curriculum that passes down ‘Official Knowledge and Grand Narratives of One Particular Historical, Cultural, Scientific truths’, train the children of the poor to be nationalistic and patriotic unquestionably, and those used as a training ground for children to participate in nation-building as servants and appendages to the state capitalist system so that the children will grow up as defenders of the evolvingly-totalitarian state;
6) ‘PROOF-OF-CONCEPT’ SCHOOLS, i.e. well-funded ‘pulled-out’ government schools to prove that public schools do work as a showcase of innovations and good management, authentic assessment and evaluation, as a way to show that selected schools can be saved from the failing public schools, and that a failing policy can be saved by a successful showcase of ‘smart ways to schooling’;
7) PARIAH SCHOOLS, i.e. schools that beg for money from the government even to fix the roof or a toilet... fit for a punishment haven for children simply because they are born out of the wrong race, class, or caste, and schools for those whose parents did not go to any of the schools above...
Which of the schools do the children of the Temiar tribe of Gua Musang belong to?
Which of those above do you wish you child to be schooled in...?
No Malaysia child left behind?
What then must we do in this apartheid scheme of schooling and mass-babysitting? How can we stop this conveyor belt of education from moving, to give each child the right to be intelligent in a level playing field? Dare we vote in a government that will correct the imbalances of a class system of social reproduction?
We have successfully created classes of society through our classification system of schools and through the class ideology we directly or indirectly teach in our classrooms. We have schools for the rich and schools for the poor. Like labeling batteried-chicken eggs, we assign ‘grades’ to our schools.
When our schools are failing, we try to create independent schools and profit from more private schools, leaving behind the children of the poor of all races to be recycled in the system of structural mental-ideological violence. We are wasting good talents. Instead of making the slogan ‘brain gain’ a reality, we are making ‘brains go down the drain’.
We have also created, in Malaysia for example, the dispossessed youth with passion for death-inviting drag-racing, the Mat Rempits, the essentially loan-shark artist ‘Alongs’ preying on the financially desperate, and gangsters groomed in the rubber estates and depressed urban areas.
These are the products of an unthinking schooling and reproductions of the post-industrial society. We have neglected the development of their minds and created successful failures through the schools we build. We have appointed educational leaders who perhaps have not set foot in the classroom, let alone in those of the most impoverished areas of our country.
What is our problem with this gentle profession and enterprise called ‘Education’?
What then must we do? Seems that we are only reading daily about the 1MDB and the fruitless war between the Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Abdul Razak camps: about who is stealing how much of the rakyat's money, then now and forever.
We continue to neglect the debate concerning our children’s future - our great school debate.
-- azly rahman