I spent this morning sitting in a round table about education issues : Equity In Education.
There was a very good mix of people (Malays, Chinese, Indians, ladies, men, academics, educationists, professionals, religious people, business people) all very eloquent and saying many right things. There are really a lot of smart and quick witted people in the country. They are NOT in politics. Sad to say ALL the political parties are terribly under populated with clever people – meaning they are over populated with the other category. The Government has to find a mechanism to co-opt the capable and cleverer non-politicians into the business of running the Government. There is little place for the clever in the political parties. That is why in the long run, you can (or will) lose the elections.
I learnt something new and not so new also. The not so new thing was when the represenative from ABIM (Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia) asked for more Government aid for religious schools which he said were good and not causing any problems in the country. Well, this is a free country and people are free to say whatever they want.
But a lady speaker, who was quiet most of the time spoke up and really caught my attention. She represented a Yayasan which does serious charity work. She said that many school leavers from the ‘sekolah agama’ system (the tahfiz al Quran graduates, the sekolah pondok graduates, the madrassah, sekolah agama graduates etc) face dead ends. Their choices of furthering their education are very limited. (I think their whole lives are limited).
They find it difficult to enter the local colleges and universities (except maybe to study religion). They even cannot get admission to the better institutes in the Arab countries (nauzubillah – may Allah protect us). They can hardly speak a word of English. Worse they cannot mix easily with other people around them, especially with non Muslims or with people of different races and languages. This is because of their limited exposure in the sekolah agama where everything is either “islam” or “kafir”. In brief they become anti-social as well.
Then the speaker also said that there is a lot of resentment building up among these young people. Many of them are beginning to realise that it is they who are different from the normal world. Of course they will feel resentment because compared to their other friends, their own futures have been destroyed. There will also be resentment against their parents as well for putting them in the sekolah agama in the first place.
Many parents place their children in sekolah agama out of either ignorance or feelings of guilt. The ignorant think they are giving their children the best chances in life and in the “hereafter” by sending them to religious schools. How mistaken you are.
The guilty have committed some serious ‘perbuatan berdosa’ in their lives. Maybe they cheated people of money, songlap too much money or some other guilt ridden actions. So to tebus their own “dosa”, (repent for their own “sins”) they seek to make amends and send their children to the sekolah agama. The children become sacrificial lambs for the parents’ guilt.
(In old Ireland, the very religious Catholics often wished that if they had sons, at least one would “serve the Lord“. This meant joining the Church. Maybe the Lord would look favourably on the parents and improve their chances of making it to heaven)
It is the same with some people who feel compelled to “naik haji” five times or go for “umrah” seven times. They have too much “dosa” or “sins” which they have committed. Cuci dengan sabun tak hilang, cuci dengan chlorox tak boleh hilang, naik haji sekali tak puas, dua kali, tiga kali they still feel guilty. Terlalu banyak dosa. So if they have children maybe they will also sacrifice their children “in the Lord’s service”. Send them off to sekolah agama. Maybe their children will learn how to baca Yasin and baca doa at their funerals which will help alleviate their burden of guilt and gain an entry to heaven.
Hence many children end up at the sekolah agama because their parents had some motive or other. It is not in the best interest of the child’s future.
Some of you will say that there is Ma’ahad this and Ma’ahad that which produces students with 13 As or 17As. They then go on to become doctors and engineers as well. These are few and far between. They produce so many As because they follow the Government curriculum (the secular school curriculum). And it is yet to be seen if their graduates who become doctors can fit easily in society.
Or can they only fit into a society that is sejiwa, sebangsa and seagama as them? Which means they still cannot compete or keep up with others in their chosen fields.
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