The school fees fiasco

Recently the email boxes of my school alumni group contained a few postings on the yuran sekolah or the school fees. It was not such a hot issue all these years until the PM announced in the 2008 Budget that schooling in this country would be free with the abolishment of exam fees, school fees and the text book loan scheme extended to all students as long as they are Malaysian citizens (real or fake). All the government backers and media praised the government to high heaven as being pro-rakyat and really serious in providing free quality education to all. The opposition, being opposition, treated it as an election ploy. To us familiar with schools fees structure, we were taken back when we re-read the speech. It said, the abolished fee is the one known as Yuran Khas. As far as we know, it is only RM9 for the secondary school and RM4.50 for primary school. The amount was not much to be shouted about because they are many other fees to be considered. We still harboured the fervent hope that when the actual circular come out, the abolishment would cover the whole gamut of fees such as Yuran kerta ujian dan pepriksaan, yuran koku, yuran majalah, yuran P.Islam etc. So when the actual circular came out we were disappointed. Grudgingly teachers have to inform the misinformed parents that they still have a lot of yuran to pay. The hue and cries from parents began to be heard after the school holidays started when parents started to receive letters on the new school sessions. The Ministry of Education attempted to standardise the fees by proposing a set of payment packages. Despite the endorsement of the PTA, it was a futile attempt, as parents all these while, after the 2008 budget announcement, had the impression that they have no more school fees to pay except the sumbangan PIBG. Many began to accuse the government of lying, obfuscating facts and spinning yarns. The matter was made worse when the Minister himself gave contradicting replies on the issues on different occasions.
I think the whole issue could have been remedied had the various parties do their homework properly.
In trying to help the rakyat, the Prime Minister failed to explain properly in his budget speech that the abolishment of school fees is only for Yuran Khas and parents still have to pay host of other fees. Instead of insisting that schooling now is free, he should have said it is heavily subsidised. Well, the wallahs who wrote the budget speech may not know of the real situation in the schools and in their eagerness to impress, they caused embarassment to the government.
The backbenchers, psychopants and the heavily biased mass media should have properly investigated the actual value and meaning of the abolishment before jumping into conclusion that school education is now free. You can praise the government but make sure your fact is right before doing so.
So, I think the whole episode is a case of misinformation. I am not sure whether it was intentional or purely incidental.
As a parent, what irked us was, the authority failed to give a full picture right from the beginning, opting instead to gloat at their goods deeds and in the process maybe inadvertently misinformed the public. The same can be said of the local mass media which failed to get their facts properly, opting instead to flash the headlines of free education beginning of 2008, in big bold letters. The net effect of the feel good statements from the government, psychopants, and the mass media, the parents really felt that they do not have to pay school fees anymore. Imagine their disappointment when it turn out to be otherwise. Little wonder many accused the government of lying . I would not come to that, but rather it was a case of misinformation – be it intentional or otherwise.
Parents had no qualms about paying schools fees, after all these years they have been paying without much objection. They value education. They are willing to pay a reasonable sum for it. They have been saving for the new school year, what more with no bonus forthcoming for the civil servants. So when it was announced that school fees were abolished, and text books are free, many maybe were joyously spending a bit more for their hari raya or school holidays or on school uniforms or other things. Imagine the shock and horror when they discovered that they still have to pay school fees to the tune of up to RM45 per child. Of course they felt cheated even though it was their responsibilities in the first place.

Viewing it from another point, a friend of mine said parents should not complaint. If they can afford to fork out RM120 for that Nokia3310 or 3315 (the cheapest Nokia around) and pay for the bill, what is there to complain about RM45 for school fees? Or worse still, they still can buy RM7 per pack of Dunhill or Salem per day, what is there to complaint about RM45 school fees, paid once a year?. So it boils down to ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ analysis.

I would like us to spare a thought to the helpless teachers who would have to bear the brunt of the parents wrath through no fault of theirs. So if you registering your children in schools next year, please be polite to the teachers. They have suffered so much harassment already and that is not much they can do about it. Do not be angry with them if their answers to your queries about school fees are terse and curt.

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