Thursday, March 20, 2014

Malays & Scholarship - until when?

Again, FB is inundated with self congratulatory messages from parents keen to showcase their children's achievement.

Congrats to parents for their children's achievement in this year SPM. That's the least I could do.

My two sons did not achieve enough in the SPM examination for me to crow about in the FB then. They did well, but I guess they were not straight A's students then - though I did secretly wish for it, I have to admit, though I still hope that they will be straight A's achievers in their lives later.

But I would like to talk here is not about achievement, but about what's next for them.

I have always advocated that (SPM) results are secondary. For all the strings of A's that we had achieved, how many had turned out to be patent holders and go on and do well in the ivy leagues of the world.

Or it should be the other way round actually. Go and get educated in the ivy leagues and then go on and super achieve in the technical fields. But we have little to crow about in this field.

I wonder why the four Chinese who work at Freescale are all patent holders, and none of them are Malaysians. Yet Freescale has a factory in Malaysia. I guess we are only qualified to be managers to world class people.

Where are our straight A's students? From over 20 years ago, I am sure we should tonnes of them - at least since we didn't have straight A's from my time. Where are our patent holders, and Nobel prize winners?

Anyway, I digress,

I read somewhere in FB, that the parents of some of these wonderful achievers are hoping to get scholarship for their children. Can I appeal to all to stop the subsidy mentality, and start sponsoring your own children's education?

Please. When MRSMs were set up in the 70s, the Malays were in the backwater. Either the parents were farmers, or some low level government servant with equally low pay and certainly could not afford to pay for the education of the children all the way to the university. Let's not talk overseas ok, let's just say even for local universities.

Take my family for example. One income earner with mid level management position at the Land office. I know exactly how bapak would earn then and I can safely say that it is 3 figure salary. With 12 children to support, there is no way he could afford to send his second son to Australia.

For sure.

I am extremely thankful for the scholarship the government of the day, through MARA, gave to me to enable me to study in Australia for 5 years.

And after 30 years of working and having a career that has taken me to not only the towns of peninsular Malaysia, but also to Singapore and the United States, I have always believe that I should not be the recipient of more education scholarship. I don't deserve one, or two, to be honest.

For Arif and/or Akmal.

Through out all their education lives, from primary right to their tertiary years (although Akmal is on a month into his first year at MOnash), both of them have only been the recipient of FAMA scholarship.

I am not saying that I am wonderfully rich. Far from it. I am still yet to drive the three star marquee. I am not living in a bungalow house, somewhere in Damansara or Bangsar, or any other enclave of the rich and famous, even though I think I can afford one if I were to live in Taiping. We eat mainly at home, and not at hotel restaurants. I still drive around a 19-year old car, and I really mean that I use it to drive me around.

With  Arif a full-fledged income earner the past two years, actually we are only a two car family. Which is below average for families in KL, I must admit.

The last time we travelled overseas was in 2012 when the family made it to Japan for an 8-day holiday. I still travel through LCCT, and I have forgotten when was the last time I travelled using full blown airline.

What am I talking about?

Anyway, Arif's education is fully sponsored by yours truly. Alhamdulillah. No scholarship, or not even MARA loans. Every 3 months, I would have to fork out about RMxx for his flying lessons. The same with Akmal. I am hoping to send him overseas next year if he did well in his exam this year. It is not going to be cheap, but I think I want him to have the wonderful experience I had when I was a student overseas, although he had his pre-K years in a school in US.
Minus the MARA scholarship of course.

I really do not wish to know how much exactly I need for him, but I am prepared to dig into my saving and reserves for him to do so. A friend of mine, another MRSMer sponsored his son in the UK since last year. That's the way to go. Another classmate was planning to send both her son and daughter overseas.

This is the least we previous recipients of scholarship should be thinking.

I think with the RM80k scholarship that MARA gave me for my education in the 80s, this is my actual payback - as an independent Malay family who does not rely on subsidy or government scholarship for their next generation. Alhamdulillah.

That's what I am trying to give back to Malaysia in my own small way.

It is such a small contribution. It is not even anywhere near the contribution I was given a gift 30 years ago.
Education is the best way for families to get out of poverty line. My family did many decades ago with education. We are (still) not inherently rich, but we are blessed with richness, so to speak.

So my dear friends, especially those from MRSM, please consider this. I think most of you need not have to wait for scholarship for your children's education. You, like me 30 years ago, had been blessed with one already. Give others a chance. There are many families living within the poverty line. They needed help, and they should be given priority. In the new millennium when we are living very comfortably in our homes, some are really struggling for their daily meals.

Don't take this opportunity from those who really need it. Resources are finite, and what you consume, other may not be able to enjoy it. In many sense, it is a zero-sum game.

Not us. We can live by without it. We may need to pinch a thing to or two out of our lives, but I am sure we can do it. You certainly can. Try pinch from those London trip that you are planning. How about not going to visit Turkey next year and save for your son's university expenses? Oh, just mortgage your beeming S Class in your porch.

I didn't have such an excellent career - many of my friends had better ones, and if I can do it, so can you. In fact many of my Chinese friends at the university  in the 80s did not have rich families themselves, but their parents probably mortgage away their lives to ensure their children get good education. If they can do it then (and now), so can we.

Forego government scholarship for your children. Please. But if you can get the Ivy Leagues to sponsor your children's education, then I am ok with it. That I will support you 100%.

Set our family free from the subsidy mentality, shall we?

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