Truancy is a school and not criminal problem – Hishamuddin should not pass  the buck to police on what is basically a test of the success of the educational system

Media Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Monday): The first month of the  new Abdullah Cabinet, despite its slogan of “cermerlang, gemilang, terbilang”,  has not distinguished itself in any spurt of  “excellence, glory or distinction”, but the reverse, particularly in the important portfolio of education. 

Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein started as the new Education Minister with the horrific murder of Form IV student, Farid Ibrahim, 16, following  assaults by seniors at the hostel of SM Agama Datuk Klana Putra Ma’amor in Seremban  on 28th March 2004, the second day of his new Cabinet appointment. 

Despite a lot of  “sound and fury”, he has not impressed Malaysians that he is serious about discipline and gangsterism in schools as he continued to  evade the issue of holding the school principal and hostel wardens responsible for their dereliction of duties which must be regarded as one of the causes  resulting in the series of events in the hostel culminating in the murder of Farid   

Eight students have been charged for Farid’s murder, while another six, though cleared of the charge of killing Farid, had been  expelled from the school for being  guilty of planning and abetting their other friends in the murder.  Why weren’t the school principal, the hostel warden and assistant warden suspended for their neglect of duties resulting in the murder of Farid, which will be a powerful salutary lesson to all principals, hostel wardens and teachers about their responsibilities? 

Hishammuddin’s response to Farid’s murder is the  knee-jerk reaction to establish a task force at the ministry level to monitor and overcome discipline problems in schools, which  is most disappointing, as it is a route of failure  which had been taken by the previous Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad to address the problem of school indiscipline and gangsterism. 

Hishammuddin is repeating what the Education director-general Datuk Dr. Abdul Shukor Abdullah had lambasted school principals   five years ago in 2000 for sweeping problems of school indiscipline under the carpet – except that the problem of gangsterism and crime involving students has now  become an even bigger  national problem.  Last year, there were  5,320 crime cases involving students – such as drug abuse, thievery, robbery, extortion, rape and murder – or a 22.7% increase from the 2,002 figure of 4,200.  

Hishammuddin’s warning that  there will be  no place in the country’s schools for school bullies who behaved like gangsters is no real solution – as  their expulsion would only export the problem of school gangsterism to become gangsterism in  society at large, without addressing and resolving the problem of a school environment which has become such a fertile ground to breed gangsters! 

Hishamuddin is ending his first month as Education Minister today  with another mishandling of an educational disaster – trying to pass off the problem of school truancy as a criminal problem by bringing in  the police when Hishamuddin should not pass  the buck to the police on what is basically a test of the success of the educational system.

Hishammuddin should resist the temptation for “quick fixes” to problems in his Ministry by “passing the buck” to another Ministry or department but should   be more creative and imaginative to address the long-standing and deteriorating problem of school indiscipline and gangsterism by inviting all political parties and relevant organizations and representatives of the civil society, particularly the parents,  to seek solutions to restore a safe and crime-free environment in our schools, colleges and educational institutions for the young generation of Malaysians.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor