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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Muhibbah 101

I echo Zainul Arifin's thoughts on national schools being the solution to our unity woes. (thanks to Aisehman for the heads up)


I'll give you a sample. I won't quote any 100 million ringgit research that was done in 3 days weeks. I won't refer to any smart-ass publication written by some pakar something. I give you...myself.

I was brought up in the national school system during my primary years. I went to St. Paul primary in Seremban up till I was twelve before being shipped out to Ipoh in Form One.

Let me tell you about St. Paul.

St. Paul primary isn't a popular choice among Malay parents in Seremban as opposed to KGV or Seri Kelana. My parents sent me there because my cousins went there too. Talk about cronyism.

Anyways, Malays are not the dominant race in St. Paul. With a name like that, you would have forgiven the Malay parents for being a bit worried. I think the majority was Indians. Or Chinese. I'm not sure. But it wasn't Malay, that I'm sure of.

But it had a good mix of all the races. And it never felt awkward to me. During primary, I had a good number of non-Malay friends. We played Pepsi-cola together. We played football together. It was fun. We were all friends. I think of Ah Bengs and Muthus as friends and not what their race were. I remembered Lim Kah Wee with his big bottle of water (he used the F&N cordial bottle). I remembered Satesh with his awesome pace in the 200 meters (I ran the relay race back then). I remembered Kenneth with his geeky face but he had a great collection of the Three Investigators. Oh, how we loved the Three Investigators! We would sometimes pretend that we were the super-sleuths with namecard and all. Hahaha...what a riot.

But as my primary days drew to a close, so did my relationship with these people. I was sent to a fully residential school in Ipoh. I always think of residential schools being Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Melayu). Why? Because of the lack of non-Bumis in them. So how are they any different from the vernacular schools? Same goes with the MRSMs.

Five years spent with the same people with the same ethnic background certainly had its effects on me. The result? I tend to stick to the people of my race in my varsity days. Good thing there were a few college projects in which I participated in that involved other races. And good thing my Faculty had a good mix of people as well. There were a few exceptions such as Kin Seng and Yew Fei who I can have a glass of teh tarik with anytime. Other than that, it was merely professional. If I didn't have any business with you, I don't want to know you.

Up till today. I don't have that many non-Malay friends. And if you mean friend as in people you know outside of work, then the list dwindles even more.

Which is scary in this multi-ethnic society of ours. I'm just one example. What about the people who go to Chinese schools and study abroad? What about the Malay kid who went to sekolah pondok and took up Pengajian Islam in university? When do these people actually even have contact with other races?

Does the Chinese guy only have contact with a Malay when he's buying nasi lemak? Or when he's applying for a MyKad? And the only Chinese guy the Malay kid knows is the local towkay kedai runcit? Or the nyonya who delivers the papers?

This dangerous scenario is a perfect brew for disaster. Our kids don't even know each other. We just wish Gong Xi Fa Chai without knowing what's it all about. People just say 'Selamat Hari Raya' because the Petronas ad says so.

And can we really blame them? I for one, blame the school system which systematically segregates us. What are we to become as a nation? Are we just a bunch of pretenders who grins on TV saying muhibbah and waves the flag? Are we really proud that we're a multi-racial community yang hidup aman makmur? Is Malaysia truly Asia?

The first step in bridging the gap between the races is through our schools. And like Aisehman said, the faster we do it the better.

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