TAMIL school issues continued to grab the attention of the Tamil press in the week of 5 to 11 Jan 2009, specifically the increase in enrolment and the standoff between parents and a Tamil school.
The global Indian diaspora and one man’s fight for citizenship were also highlighted.
Up, up and up!
All the Tamil papers frontpaged stories about the first day of school, and reported that enrolment in Tamil schools was at a historic high. Makkal Osai, in its front page story on 6 Jan titled Enrolment of students in Tamil schools reach 20,000, reported an increase of over 2,000 students in Tamil schools compared with 2008. Another story, Hundreds of students enrol in Tamil schools across the Federal Territory, quoted the heads of several schools as agreeing that there was an unprecedented increase in the number of students attending Tamil schools this year.
Malaysia Nanban in its 6 Jan editorial applauded the Education Ministry for increasing the number of temporary teachers in Tamil schools to 1,522. The teachers reported to work on the first day of school, instead of a few months later, as was the case previously.
The editorial, titled The increase of teachers and students a good sign for Tamil schools, further noted the mindset change among middle-class Indian Malaysians regarding Tamil schools.
“All this while, middle-class Indian Malaysians were under the mistaken belief that their children could only acquire a good education in national schools. Now they realise that their children can study in Tamil schools and compete with students from national schools on a national and international level,” it said.
Tamil Nesan‘s 6 Jan editorial also touched on the high enrolment in Tamil schools. The editorial, titled A healthy improvement, noted with concern that in terms of facilities, the Tamil schools still lagged behind national schools. The editorial also saluted dedicated teachers and school heads, who worked very hard to prepare students for the UPSR exams. “If Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and parents gave their full support to the schools and teachers, the UPSR results in Tamil schools would improve even further,” the paper said.
Trouble at school
One school that got off to a bad start was Kapar Vallambrosa Tamil school. Makkal Osai‘s headline on 6 Jan, Kapar Vallambrosa Tamil school sudden change to afternoon session; parents and schools in five-hour standoff, said the school decided to push the Standards Two and Three classes to the afternoon session because of the increase in Standard One pupils. However, the school did not inform the PTA or parents and pupils about the change until they reported for school.
More than 200 angry parents surrounded the school office and demanded answers, but the school head did not come out to meet them or PTA officials. Finally, Kapar Member of Parliament (MP) S Manikavasagam and Kapar MIC head T Ganesan managed to forge an agreement between the parents and school authorities. The school head was heavily criticised for not taking adequate measures to build extra classrooms with the funding that was given to the school. Makkal Osai reported that among the parents, women were especially vocal in their remarks and demands.
Tamil Nesan‘s report on the same story focused more on the parents’ ire. Its story, Tussle in Vallambrosa Tamil school over afternoon session, gave voice to the parents’ dissatisfaction with the school head. The paper quoted the parents describing the head as “being clueless about administration, and being irresponsible.” The head was also accused of not being interested in the school’s growth and development.
Indians from all over the world gathered in Chennai for two important conferences. The first was the World Tamil Economic Conference, held a few days before the bigger Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Indian Diaspora Conference).
Tamil Nesan reported on 9 Jan in its story, Tan Sri KR Somasundram receives world Tamil entrepreneurship award, that this was the first time the World Tamil Economic Conference was being held. The conference’s aim was to strengthen the economic position of Tamil entrepreneurs all over the world. The paper celebrated the success of local entrepreneur Tan Sri KR Somasundram.
Malaysia Nanban in its 7 Jan story, MIC, DAP and Keadilan represented, pointed out that this was the first time in the seven-year history of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference that Malaysian leaders from the opposition parties were invited.
On 10 Jan, Malaysia Nanban‘s headline, Is MIC the sole representative of Indians? Wrong!, quoted Penang Deputy Chief Minister Prof Dr P Ramasamy as criticising Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu for his remarks that only the MIC represents Indian Malaysians.
Long fight for citizenship
Malaysia Nanban‘s story on 8 Jan, After a 35-year battle, S Chelaiya finally gets citizenship, was of a man who was born and raised in Alor Star, but was denied citizenship because he didn’t have proper documentation.
However, Chelaiya was finally granted citizenship at the age of 84. Despite the setbacks of the past 35 years, he thanked the Malaysian government for finally granting him citizenship in his twilight years.