Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 7th January 2009:

Tamil schools need URGENT funds now 

I urge the government to urgently allocate the RM50 million pledged by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in winding up Budget 2009, following news reports stating that a 20,000 spike in student enrollment in Tamil schools has led to a classroom shortage in some schools.

The increase will burst the seams of existing schools, prompting a need to build new classrooms and improve other facilities including the quality of the teaching staff in Tamil schools.

Although at one point there were 1,500 Tamil schools in the country, the figure has now dwindled to 523. But 373 of the total number of schools are partially aided and built mostly on private land. I, therefore, strongly urge the government to upgrade these schools to fully funded schools.

It has been noted that half of the 523 schools would have been closed down if not for the donations and efforts of private donors and activists working on Tamil school issues.

I welcome the move by the federal and state government to improve the conditions of the Tamil schools. However much more is needed to be done as the conditions of most schools are deplorable.

More than half of the existing schools lack infrastructure, trained teachers, resources and also need to be refurbished. The government must, therefore, look into this matter seriously and increase its financial allocation for Tamil schools.

The Tamil language is one of the oldest surviving languages. While it is heartening to see an increase in students in these schools, the government must also play its role in ensuring the students are not wanting for basic amenities.

The right to education and mother education is a fundamental human right and governments have a responsibility to realize the right.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang