The cost of education
New and improved system?
When Budget 2021 was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 6, the ministry set to receive the largest slice of the pie, at RM50.4 billion or 15.6% of the government budget, was Education.
The only problem was the allocation breakdown then didn’t include the different types of schools in our education system. This led many to complain vernacular schools were being sidelined, an accusation the government promptly denied.
But it wasn’t till yesterday we found out just what’s been given to which types of schools. There is, apparently, a new formula for distributing school allocations, according to a breakdown provided to the Dewan Rakyat by middle-hair-parting Education Minister Radzi Jidin.
In case you’re wondering, besides national and national-type schools (meaning vernacular schools la), there are other kinds of schools here, both gomen and gomen-aided. These include religious, boarding, missionary and conforming
The new formula has resulted in significant budget boosts for government and Chinese schools overall. All other school types will see budget cuts, with boarding schools, conforming schools, religious schools and Tamil schools among the biggest hit.
However, on average, each individual school is eligible for a similar amount of moolah. Confused? Here’s the bottom line: School types fully funded by the gomen and/or make up the larger number will receive a larger share of funding. On the flip side, government-aided and/or school types with lesser numbers get less.
At the same time, all school types apart from gomen and Chinese schools are also eligible for critical funds set aside for urgent repairs and needs.
On paper, the new system sounds good (We can almost hear MIC coming out with a statement saying that all’s good since there aren’t that many Tamil schools anyway). But we’ll wait for the experts to weigh in. You can view a more detailed breakdown here.
Since we’re on the topic of education and the Budget, there’s been some hoo-ha over claims of a massive cut to Universiti Teknologi Mara’s allocation. However, Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad has pooh-poohed this.
She’s said there’ll only be an RM4 million reduction. As former minister Tengku Adnan Mansor would say, pocket money lah! Noraini added the RM4 mil will be made up in internal savings and should not affect the salaries of both academic and contract staff.
UiTM itself has also denied the uni was intending on sacking 600 part-time lecturers due to the perceived budget cut. It’s deemed a news report stating so as inaccurate. But it’s OK gomen, there’s still no need for a new anti-fake news law.
We’re just gonna throw in one last piece of news about edumacation. The KL High Court has fixed Jan 12 next year to hear a case on the Education Ministry’s decision to make khat study or Jawi calligraphy lessons compulsory for Chinese and Tamil primary school students.
FYI, mandatory khat lessons was a decision by the Pakatan Harapan gomen. It was later made optional, among others, after parents and education groups told the previous gomen to khat it out (geddit?)
Is today the day?
So, a whole bunch of ministers wound up their respective ministry’s budget speech yesterday.
We had FT Minister Annuar Musa saying his ministry was committed to developing Kampung Baru as part of the KL Structure Plan 2020-2040, while still maintaining its Malay heritage.
We ALSO had Multimedia and Communications Minister Saifuddin Abdullah saying the resurrected Special Affairs Department a.k.a Jasa a.k.a government propaganda arm would not take its full RM86 million allocation.
Oh, Jasa’ll also be rebranded as Jabatan Komunikasi Komuniti (J-KOM). Plus, it wouldn’t be headed by a politician or be a propaganda machine for PM Muhyiddin Yassin and his gomen (allegedly! allegedly!).
Saif may have delivered a very Disney spiel in the august House yesterday, but that old saying “a rose, by any other name, is still a rose” comes to mind (though we have to confess, it wasn’t a rose that we’d use as comparison).
We gotta ask, what guarantee J-KOM’ll not be used for propaganda? Is there a system of checks and balances in place? Why not just reduce the dang Budget instead of saying it’ll use “less” of it, and for that matter, how much is “less”?
Also, as pointed out by the opposition, what use is there of another gomen communications arm when we already have RTM, Bernama and everyone’s favourite, Jabatan Penerangan?
What about the vote?
The biggest question on everyone’s minds is whether or not our beloved lawmakers will actually vote on Budget 2021 today, as scheduled.
According to several news reports (here and here), there’s serious concern the first vote may be delayed as several ministries have yet to wind up, owing to the new Covid-19 safety measures which include shorter Parliament sessions.
Dewan Rakyat session was extended till 3pm to make today’s deadline. Speaker Azhar “Art” Harun was also doing his best to hurry things along, so much so he got into a spat with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for being too strict with the time limit for the ministers’ winding-up session.
Despite the extended session, however, we’re still three ministries behind schedule. With 10 more ministers to go in all, the House is left with three options:
- Extend today’s session until all winding up is done, and a vote is called;
- Shorten the 20-minute time limit (already shortened from the usual 40 minutes); or
- Postpone the vote.
The next question, of course, is whether the Budget will be passed in the Lower House. Perikatan Nasional backbenchers, including BN MPs, have said they’ll vote in favour of Moo’s Budget.
But as we know, BN has also made two demands in exchange for their support. Yesterday, BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi met with Big Chief Moneybags Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz to discuss matters. Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki has said “God-willing” there’ll be good news today.
Reading between the lines (ahem) of that one, we gotta wonder if this could mean Moo and gang will give in to BN’s demands? And if they don’t, will BN vote down the Budget?
One thing is for sure, however. Former
dictator-for-life PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Pejuang “warriors” will be voting against the Budget.
Old man Mads has claimed Perikatan’s priority in tabling the Budget was to ensure political survival rather than the interests of the people.
Despite this, good ol’ Maddey later stated he’s still willing to cooperate with Moo. Apart from saying there is a way for such a reconciliation, he was vague on the details.
Talk about being cryptic (and no, that’s not a reference to his age). So, now MooMoo can be forgiven? But only if he follows “a way”? By the WAY, if Muh finds THE WAY before the Budget comes up for voting, will Mads and Pejuang then support it?
Old wounds heal fast around here, don’t they?
(SIDENOTE: In the same interview, the nonagenarian threw an old friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend again under the bus, so to speak. No, we’re not talking about Anwar, but Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, whom Mads said had plotted to form a new government, overthrowing MooMoo and Perikatan.)
Some (relatively) good Covid-19 news at last
It was a good news day (well, kinda) as far as our Covid-19 numbers were concerned.
After days of four-figure increases, including a record-breaking 2,188 new cases on Tuesday, yesterday saw “only” 970 new cases, most of which came from (surprise, surprise!) Negri Sembilan. Even better? The number of recoveries far outstripped new cases. At 2,348, it’s a new record. Sadly, there were 4 deaths, bringing the death toll so far to 345.
The high number of cases in Negri Sembilan was due to the ‘Bakti’ cluster involving a prison there. In fact, a third of yesterday’s cases were attributed to prison-linked clusters.
Meanwhile, the notorious ‘Teratai’ cluster involving mainly Top Glove workers only had 17 cases yesterday, a far cry from its four-figure increases over the past two days. There are currently over 4,000 cases linked to this cluster. Health authorities have also assured the infection has not spread to the community even though some of those infected were not Top Glove workers but their close contacts.
The world’s biggest glove maker still found itself facing bad press yesterday as HR Minister M Saravanan’s called out the horrible condition of the company’s worker hostels. He vowed action against the company within a week.
Top Glove, in turn, seems to be taking the blur sotong defence, with its executive chairman saying he was puzzled by Saravanan’s statement. Lim Wee Chai’s claimed when Sara failed to raise any concern when he visited the hostels two or three months ago.
That defence just ain’t gonna fly, as even Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob has hit out at “one factory in our country that has received fairly poor comments from international bodies for placing workers in crowded conditions”. The point is, the former colourful baju minister said the HR Ministry will be enforcing minimum housing standards for migrant workers’ dormitories beginning today.
Looks like it “only” had to take a massive dealy viral infection for Malaysia to start caring about foreign workers’ housing welfare. Better late than never? In any case, 27 of Top Glove’s 28 factories in Klang have been shut down by the government, with the remaining one to be closed soon. This is despite the company claiming that the high temperatures used during production at the factories prevent possible contamination.
Anyway, back to some good news. Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said the first batch of Covid vaccines will be made available to Malaysia by the first quarter of 2021, with a roadmap for vaccine development ready by the second quarter.
The Beard also explained the science behind vaccinating only 70 percent of the population. Tl;dr, calculations indicated this was all that was needed to achieve herd immunity. Also, children under 12 will not be vaccinated as most vaccines have not been tested on this age group.
There were a few other Covid-related stories that came out yesterday and to keep things as short as possible, here they are in brief:
- Taman Telipok Ria in Tuaran (Sabah) and the Sungai Seluang sub-district of Kulim (Kedah) have been placed under EMCO for two weeks beginning tomorrow. However, today will see the EMCO in Kampung Pengaraban, Kampung Tanjung Kapor and Kampung Landung Ayang in Kudat (Sabah) lifted.
- Travel restrictions for those returning from Sabah have been eased.
- A Sabah MP has called for Keningau MP Jeffrey Kitinggan to be referred to the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee for allegedly breaking quarantine to attend Dewan Rakyat proceedings, despite the STAR party man saying he’d been released early from quarantine. Meanwhile, our Health DG has declared an early release from quarantine is possible if a health risk assessment is favourable.
- A total of 95,995 people were retrenched between Jan 1 and Nov 13 this year, with the unemployment rate as of September at 4.6 percent. This means 737,500 people are out of jobs.
- The Higher Education Ministry is in discussions with the Finance Ministry to extend the loan moratorium for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN).
Another cop gets shot
Yet another General Operations Force member has been shot at the Malaysian-Thai border. This time, the GOF member was at a post near Bukit Kayu Hitam in Kedah.
The cop was, luckily, only slightly injured, the bullet having struck his bulletproof vest. He was on patrol and so was wearing a vest, which was not the case the previous day when two GOF members were shot while gathering intelligence.
But that’s not the end of the story, of course. Yesterday, police obtained remand orders against 18 suspected smugglers and are said to be hot on the trail of the main suspect and eight others believed to have been involved in the shooting.
Meanwhile, the armed forces and GOF have beefed up their presence at the border following the incident. Mounted, air and armoured units will be mobilised to the border areas, and the GOF will also increase the presence of VAT69 commando units.
Anyhoo, several other things came across our radar yesterday:
- The Public Accounts Committee has said it’s improved its scrutiny process by compelling ministries and government agencies to report back in just two months instead of the previously allocated three months.
- Meanwhile, opposition MPs have called on former home minister Zahid Hamidi to explain why over 500,000 “special approvals” were issued between 2016 and 2018 for foreign workers’ admission into the country during his tenure, as reported by the PAC the previous day.
- Transparency International’s latest survey on corruption in Malaysia has found that 71% of people see entrenched corruption in the government, but 67% of Malaysians feel the current administration is doing a good job of fighting corruption.
- Judges hearing the case against four defendants in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have rejected a defence request for more time to investigate alternative scenarios into the incident in eastern Ukraine.
- The Meteorological Department has issued an orange level weather alert for strong winds and heavy rain in several states in Peninsular Malaysia until tomorrow. Meanwhile, Selangor has warned its residents of the possibility of flooding until the end of the year.
- The latest QS Asia University Ranking has placed Universiti Malaya among the Top 10 universities in the continent. It moved up four spots from the previous year to ninth. Seven public and three private Malaysian universities also did well, placing within the top 110 universities in Asia.
“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other.”
- Mark Twain -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Record hospitalisations and a surging death toll failed to keep Americans from travelling a day before the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, raising fears that the unchecked spread underway is a prelude to further contagion at Christmastime.
Meanwhile, Spain, that oh-so-Catholic country, is mulling limiting Christmas celebrations to just six people.
- YouTube has banned an American news channel touted by outgoing US President Donald Trump from posting videos for a week for continued claims of a guaranteed Covid-19 cure.
The Donald, of course, is no stranger to unverified and downright false claims, having only just retweeted fake news that 6,000 fake votes for President-elect Joe Biden had been found in Arizona.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping has (finally) congratulated Biden for his win, saying it was in both countries’ best interests to promote a healthy and stable relationship.
- Scotland has become the first country in the world to make period products free for all. Way to go, you Scots!
- It’s a sad, sad day for football. Diego Maradona, whom many considered the greatest footballer the world has ever seen, has passed away from a heart attack at the age of 60. There’s a nice gallery of his life in pictures here.