At independence, there were 888 Tamil schools in Malaysia. Today, there are 523 Tamil schools more than 100,000 students. According to the National Blueprint For Education, the proportion of Indian students enrolled in SJKT had increased from 47% in 2000 to 56% in 2011.
Chinese schools where irrespective of one being a Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew or Hakka, their Chinese education remains in Mandarin. Their schools remains as "Chinese" schools. By contrast, for Indians there is no such thing called "Indian" schools. All Indian schools in Malaysia are in fact Tamil schools. Just like the Chinese, the Indians also belong to various sub-group such as Tamil, Malayalee, Telugu, Punjabi to name a few. However unlike the Chinese, each Indian subgroup has its own distint spoken and written language. Thus Tamil schools are in fact the exclusive educational domain for the Tamils. The sad truth is that other Indian sub-group has almost no affinity or emotional attachment with Tamil schools or Tamil education.
Approximately 7% of Malaysia's population are Indians, out of which almost 70% are Tamils. The Tamil language is one of the oldest surviving language in the world and within it is interwoven the rich Tamil culture, philosophy, religion and science. Unfortunately in Malaysia, Tamil schools and Tamil education has become the Cinderella of Malaysian education. Tamil schools face a host of depressing problems. One major problem facing Tamil schools are that most of the Tamil schools remain in rural areas although there has been a shift and migration of Indians from rural areas. In rural areas, Tamil schools have seen dwindling in students enrolment and face the reality of closure while in urban areas there is a real and growing demand for Tamil schools. Another sad facet of Tamil schools are that many of these schools lack in basic facilities such as proper classrooms, proper toilets, school fields, school hall and unlikely to have computer labs, science labs or even library ore resource rooms. In fact, it is said that some schools don't even have a canteen. All this creates a non condusive learning environment which has tremendous effect on the students.
Despite the government claiming that millions have been given to Tamil schools, no one knows if indeed the allocation was released or how was it disbursed or utilised. In 2012, the government allocated RM100 million for some 523 Tamil schools which averages about RM191,204.59 per Tamil school. It may sound like a generous and magnimanious allocation by the government but when you take into account the condition of Tamil schools and its problems, the amount allocated is just a drop in the ocean.
The Chinese just like the Jews are recognised as a community more than other communities who places a premium on education. It is deeply engrained within them that education is the salvation to a better future. Thus the Chinese have long recognised that the survival of Chinese schools depends on the Chinese community. The Chinese community supports Chinese education with an almost religious fervour and a passionate zeal.
The whole Chinese community is supportive of Chinese education. Of course it also helps when big Chinese corporation and Chinese businesses take great pride in supporting Chinese education. Just watch the Chinese developers who donate land for construction of Chinese schools. Still, it is the ordinary Chinese middle-class, hawkers and petty traders who never shy away from assisting Chinese schools. Local Chinese businesses can be relied on to support the local Chinese school and the Chinese school can be assured that the local Chinese hawkers and petty traders will always support with a generous donation without any question asked never-mind his political affiliation. I once attended a Chinese wedding ceremony where midway through the ceremony the master of ceremony announced that the happy couple has decided to give away all the Ang-pows received to their former alma-mater for which the happy couple received a thunderous applause prompting one inevibreated relative who sprang and announced a gift of a seven nights fully paid holiday to Koh Samui.
Sadly, unlike the Chinese, the Indians see Tamil education the solely as the Tamil community's duty. A Malayalee, a Telugu, a Sindhi, a Punjabi or an Indian Muslim's children is almost unlikely to be schooled in a Tamil school. Thus, they unlike the Tamils are hardly ever going to have any affinity or an emotional attachment to the cause of Tamil education or Tamil schools. Thus, tamil schools can only depend and rely on their very own Tamil community.
Unlike the Chinese hawker or petty trader who will donate to Chinese schools with no question asked, my experience withy the Tamil community is that one will need to listen to all the justification and reluctance on why they are unwilling to contribute towards Tamil schools. Sometime its really sad to see the Tamil community not supportive of their very own Tamil education. The local Indian businesses are hardly generous and the professional are more likely to be a tight skint. The Malayalees or Punjabis never mind they are still Indians would more likely be evasive from supporting with a financial donation.
The sad truth is that unless the Tamil community is not willing to help Tamil schools and Tamil education, then for certain Tamil education will see a bleak future. Forget about relying on the government. The Tamil community should take charge. Each and every Tamil can make a change. How many packets of cigarettes do you smoke in a month ? How giving up smoking and donating the money to a Tamil school. How much money do you spend on liquor at your local coffee-shop ? What about making a fixed monthly contribution to the Tamil school ? How about a group of ten Indians pledging say RM100 each month to a Tamil school or helping start a mini library in school. Even, Indian restaurants can adopt a Tamil school by placing a donation box near the cash register with all the money collected channelled to a Tamil school.
Lastly, whether one is a Malayalee or a Telugu or a Punjabi, you are still an Indian and as an Indian you must also help Tamil schools. Tamil education and Tamil schools must be recognised as being part of an Indian, not just belonging to Tamils.
So, maybe we all can in our little way individually or come together and help Tamil schools. Yes, it is Tamil school and Tamil education, but if you call yourself an Indian,come as an Indian and help Tamil schools and Tamil education.