Monday, May 30, 2005

Let Them Establish Universiti UMNO with their Own Money.

Higher learning institutions are the last bastions to shape the minds of leaders of tomorrow. You can bet that almost every organisation or political party would want to instil and inculcate their ideas, beliefs and methodologies to those young intelligent minds. So its no surprise that UMNO wants to establish its own university, where competing political ideas is shut out.
University colleges are where aspiring future leaders develop their networking skills and contacts – their know-who as well as their know –how. By establishing Universiti UMNO, These politicians are taking steps of cloning themselves – creating a group of elite ruling Malays (after all, only Malays can join UMNO), a cut above the rest. The blue blood ruling class of Malay politicians want to perpetuate their legacy to the next millennium. This Universiti UMNO will be the Ivy League university, much like some Democrat or Republican affiliated universities in the United States. Good model to follow.
As far as I know, all government funded universities in Malaysia are already controlled by the government, albeit not directly. Lecturers at universities are not allowed to be involved with opposition parties, and they have to sign the AKU JANJI letters, pledging loyalty to the government. Student politics are dominated by pro-government council, those who are even slightly critical of the government risks their funding cut off.
This is the methodology that has been used by the government to stifle dissent and criticism at universities. That’s why our graduates are a sorry lot; don’t have their own opinion, incapable of expressing themselves and being ‘pak turut’.
I am of the opinion that if UMNO leadership want their own university, let them have it – using their own money of course. Let them raise fund, set the curriculum etc – the lot. The duty of higher education ministry is just setting the standard – that degrees awarded meet certain minimum educational attainment.
There is nothing wrong with investing money in higher education, because education broadens minds, improve skills and widens our marketability in the job market. Highly educated workforce tends to be more competitive and be able to handle new technology easily. They also have the potential to earn higher incomes. Just because there are a large number of unemployed graduates doesn’t mean that tertiary education is worthless. In the West, graduates doing menial jobs are common, especially those who originated in Eastern Europe. At least being tertiary educated they have a chance of moving upward in their careers. Ask anyone who doesn’t have a degree; not having a degree can impose a glass ceiling in one’s career.
However I would oppose to this idea of Universiti UMNO if the funding were from government coffers. We have heard enough of under funded universities already, without adding another one. That money could be better spent maximising the potential and enrolment of our current universities and funding the higher education loan company. Haven’t we heard enough about starving students on a diet of instant noodles and under funded universities? We would be better off allocating more funds to existing universities instead of building a new one.
If we think that providing more funds for Higher Education Loan Company is like throwing good money after bad, we are wrong. Government loans like that is like deferred taxation. The fact that the borrowers can hardly pay back their loans because of unemployment, low income or simply refuse to pay can be handled differently. I would suggest that JHDN be given the job to collect the loans as a percentage of declared income, just like income tax.
Lets not muddle up between the freedoms to set up a university, college, school, kindergarten or madrasah to educate our children the way we want and our disdain for another money grabbing venture by the elite ruling class. (Imagine the amount of contracts given out to UMNO affiliated contractors.)
Has Stopa explained yet how UMNO is going to finance this university? I hope not from the government’s or Petronas’ coffers.
Noor Yahaya Hamzah

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