We all know problems that beleaguer our community – waywardness, gangsterism, stateless status, poverty and above all, unemployment. All those problems have a common root cause although not contained in an entire way and it is institutionalized racism, particularly in tertiary education that literally make or break a citizen and that is directly linked to unemployment of Malaysian Indians.
Our core problem is not getting level playing field when it comes to tertiary education and the direct repercussion is unemployment. I am sure that by now, you would have known about Article 153, Social Contract and NEP so I am gonna save my breath.
As a Malaysian Indian, I was the victim of the quota opposed to meritocracy system as well. Despite scoring better than my Malay peers in SPM, I didn’t get a seat in IPTA. I was pushed to do STPM. While there is a common perception that Form 6 is a waste of time, I don’t share that opinion now.. It was tough, admittedly but definitely not a waste of time. HSC is the third hardest course in the world and I owe my self motivation, knowledge, critical thinking and good English to STPM. The problem is of course, the way the system is implemented – one by one, my Lower 6 Malay classmates vanished from the class as they got seats in various IPTAs, leaving only non-Malays behind. STPM is a worldwide recognized course and if Malaysia wants to produce globally marketable citizens, then it should make STPM compulsory for all SPM leavers. But, that is not the case and we are left with a grossly imbalanced education system – where non Malays, especially Malaysian Indians get di anak tirikan.
IPTA has less Malaysian Indian students nowadays. UM, despite having a Tamil language faculty, has around 100+ Malaysian Indian students only. I’m sure you have heard the case of Linggeas and Naveena. Despite being SPM state toppers, they did not get JPA scholarship due to the by-now-supposed-to-be-abolished quota system. 12 A+ eduthevengge ke inthe gathi na, korechel ah edutha?
Malaysian Indian parents push their kids to their limits. Anthe tuition, inthe tuition, pick up, drop, pick up, drop, pullengge vaayileh vendika, cod liver oil, raisins, Vmex Booster, Kids Editon juice thinikeh vendiyuthu, TV time is only Astro tutor TV, amma raathiri poorah kann mulichi padikireh pulleh ku Nescafe kallaki kuduka vendithu. Some parents don’t even let their kids wash their own dirty plates and school shoes. Keataka, padikire pulleh ku sirmam kuduka kudathu. Saraswathy poojai seiya vendithu. Before going to write any exam, be it UPSR or SPM, kids prostrate at their parents’ feet to receive blessings. As kids write exams, parents wait in nail biting suspense. A respite would ensue only to create a tsunami of anticipation of trepidation come result day. Kids score excellent results, parents be in euphoria. Sadly, most of the time the euphoria dissipates almost immediately as the biased quota in our tertiary education system kicks in. And, unemployment follows through especially in those Malaysian Indians who didn’t do very well in SPM.
The struggle young Malaysian Indians go through to get a job
There are countless Malaysian Indians out there who got good grades in SPM. And, like we all know, most of them don’t make it to IPTA. Those who do get seats won’t get the field of study of their choice. Oru mokka course kudupangge. For instance, if one applies for medicine, they would be given food tech course. As though they are not good enough to be doctors. Athuleyeh paathi confidence poidum.
Those who either did not get matriculation or public university seat will enrol in private colleges if they have the money. If they don’t have the kaasu, panam, dhuttu, money, money, student loan is their only lifeline. Athan pa, PTPTN. And, they freshly graduate as debtors. Many Malaysian Indians are declared bankrupt just because they failed to pay back PTPTN. Vele vasi patthi solleve vena. The prices of houses and cars are far beyond many young Malaysian Indians’ affordability. Many Malaysian Indians who take housing loan tighten their belts to make ends meet.
Those Malaysian Indians who are forced by the system to do STPM share the similar fate of SPM leavers. Courses they apply for are almost always not given – this kills their fervour at the inception itself. They take on the courses offered, half hearted and bury and then grieve for their unrecognized, suppressed potential perhaps for the rest of their lives – the undeserving gets opportunities at the cost of excellence.
I would like to share an incident that happened to me. I was hospitalized for viral fever when the STPM exams were going on. I had to write the exam in hospital. A Malay med student was assigned with the task of starting an IV line on my hand. He jabbed my hand for the umpteenth time and yet he couldn’t find a vein despite my veins being so obvious to the naked eye. I showed him my vein and he arrogantly said,”Saya tahulah, kamu tak sehitam orang India lain.” And, he kept on pricking my hand as though it’s a pin cushion. I complained about the pain and he snapped,”Tahanlah sakit sikit. Sikit je ni.” I hope he had mastered the skill of starting IV lines by now. I was his guinea pig perhaps.
Still, there are those Malaysian Indians SPM leavers who do diploma courses in polytechnics and colleges. Some of them go on to do bachelor’s degree and many end up working in fields that are not what they studied for. My sister holds a NCC diploma and she works in Kamaya Electronics as a line leader after joining the company as a production operator. Production operator is just a fancy name, an euphemism. If put bluntly, kerja kilang bapak.. Iya, dia kerja sama orang Indonesia. That is reality; many Malaysian Indians work in par with immigrants who came here for better pay.
Many Malaysian Indians who were denied opportunities work as car washers, garbage collectors and other blue collar jobs. In government sector, Bumiputera are given first priority. Perhaps the only government jobs Malaysian Indians are entitled to are garbage collectors and government buildings cleaning personnel.
While that is the case for government employment, private firms prefer to hire the Chinese. That is why many Malaysian Indian parents increasingly put their kids in Chinese vernacular schools – to learn Mandarin.
Bad impression on Malaysian Indian guys too is a major hindrance to employment. Tatoo, ear studs, dog chain lookalike bling, punk hairstyle and hair dye that looks like someone has poured kaara kolumbu does not look presentable. It is not easy for an Indian guy to find a room to rent in KL city because this bad impression has stuck.
Many Malaysian Indian guys with no proper jobs resort to crime simply because of the ‘bad impression’. Choosing this kind of deviant life is precarious to say the least. I will write about this phenomena in a separate article.
So, the fault lies both ways – the system and how Malaysian Indians, especially on how guys carry themselves, albeit the weight weighing heavier on the former. While we can’t do much about the system, we can definitely change our body language and dressing sense.
Even Obama commented on this inequality and injustice that has been Malaysia’s SOP since independence:
“Democracy doesn’t just stop with elections. There should be tolerance for people who are different, regardless of their gender, ethnic background, religious affiliations, and sexual orientation. No country is going to succeed if part of its population is put on the sidelines because its population are discriminated against. There shouldn’t be reason to discriminate, and you have to make sure that you are speaking out against this in daily life. And as you emerge as leaders, you should be on the side of politics that brings people together rather than drive them apart.”
All systems are man made and they are alterable. We cannot just blame the system then rest on our laurels just because the system operates on a double standard basis. We, Malaysian Indians are indeed sidelined and marginalized, our share of the economy pie skimped on but that doesn’t mean we should just give up. Malaysian Indians need to do what it takes to remain relevant. We can learn a lot from the Chinese. Let’s just don’t relinquish. We have an illustrious history. Our progenitors taught the world civilization. Let’s work in the present to emulate our past glories in the future.