30 September 2009

Celebrating in multi cultural Malaysia

Hari Raya Aidil Fitri just passed on 20th September 2009. I hope all my Muslim friends had a safe and peaceful celebration. My son did not go to any Malay friend's house to celebrate with them. In fact, being in a Chinese school, my son does not have any Malay friends.

This is worrying. This is a bad sign for the country.

Despite being 52 years old, Malaysia's people have shown that they have not learned to co-exist happily together. Otherwise, the cow head incident would not have occurred. But how will we teach racial and religious tolerance and respect to our children when there is little opportunity for the races to mix, given the diverse school systems that Malaysia has?

When I was a child, I spent most of my primary school years in a rural national school. I was one of 3 Chinese students in the class; there were probably 5 Indians in the class. The rest were Malays. The non-Malays learned to converse in BM very well, even speaking with the requisite accent. In my teen years, whenever I spoke Malay on the phone, the person on the other end of the line always thought I was a Malay. I learned the quirks and culture of the rural Malays; the Malays in turn learned about me, my food, what I do in my spare time etc. I think that experience enriched my life immensely. I also saw how Malay students in rural schools were given ample assistance by the government in terms of scholarships, placement in MARA colleges, matriculation programs, express classes. You name it. I must also state that being the top student in my rural school, I too was given a place in one of the MARA colleges (like a charity political handout, perhaps?). I did not take up the offer. I wonder where or who I would be if I had? (in politics? Ha ha ha....)

Anyway, I am scratching my head thinking how to let my children have friends from all the races in Malaysia. Did I hear someone say "send them to Kebangsaan schools" or "send them to private schools"? Well, the choice of a school is an entire topic worthy of days' of discussion.

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