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We await answers to Dipang tragedy
THE NATION awaits the results of the investigation into last week’s Kuala Dipang tragedy in which three primary school pupils drowned and many others were put at risk. The incident which took place late at night on Oct 26 must have sent a chill down the spine of most parents of primary school-going children and may even cause them to be uncooperative when they are requested to allow their children to take part in extracurricular activities outside the school ground. Schools and even the district education offices organise a number of activities for pupils outside the school premises from time to time for recreational, educational and team building purposes. For these activities – like the 1Malaysia camp, for instance – to be successful and serve the purpose for which they are organised as many pupils as possible are encouraged to attend. It will be most unfortunate for the success of these activities if the Kuala Dipang incident automatically comes to the mind of most parents whenever their children tell them that they are required to take part in an outdoor event organised by the school or the district or even state education offices. Thus, what happened was most unfortunate. Many questions have been asked by the public and even by some of the more concerned MPs and the special committee investigating the incident will have to answer them. Hopefully, the committee will not be like other similar committees in the past where nothing much happened after a few causes had been identified. Whatever the causes this committee is going to identify the parents of the three pupils and the parents of the other nearly 300 pupils involved in the 1Malaysia camp that fateful Monday night are unlikely to be satisfied. Many will be blamed no doubt but most important of all some must be punished, even if it is merely to show that the Education Ministry does not tolerate shoddiness especially where the safety of schoolchildren is concerned. Much has been said about the suspension bridge that the pupils were on when it collapsed throwing them into the fast flowing river below – about its location, about its structure and even about who built it. But so far little attention has been focused on the organisers of the event and the teachers, who at all events involving pupils, are responsible for their safety. It will be most interesting for the committee to find out where all the teachers were when the pupils were crossing the bridge. There are established procedures and guidelines schools and teachers must strictly abide by whenever children are taken out of school on organised trips or outdoor activities. Were they strictly adhered to by the teachers involved in the Kuala Dipang incident?


The ‘deception’ of jobless graduates
THE SUN is to be commended for publishing “Who is prospering from jobless grads?” (Comment, Nov 2) in full. This is especially because, it is in the national interest to expose the so-called attempts at “enhancing graduate employability”, that in reality amount to nothing more than bureaucratic superficial ad hoc attempts to provide “more of the same”, in the hope that this would in itself overcome the problem. With the estimated 60,000 unemployed at any one time (some unemployable five years after graduation) and against the well researched analysis as above, it is perhaps understandable why some hapless graduates would be among those Malays who desperately cling to the “siege mentality” to fight the system and try to secure jobs. But unfortunately the jobless graduates themselves are not entirely to blame. As endorsed by many concerned Malaysians (including a recent comment by Tengku Razaleigh), the political elite sent their children abroad for higher education and thereby (it can be argued) “structural reforms of the higher educational system” were neglected. Indeed, Teck Ghee, myself as well as other founding pioneering lecturers of Universiti Sains Malaysia can testify that not only were the standards of formal quality education gradually lowered, but also the entire educational culture of scholarship, research, critical thinking and intellectual debate was seriously compromised. It needs to be mentioned that the almost total inability of students to benefit from access to published material in English was a particularly serious limitation. It would be tedious to go into a “blow-by blow” prescription of what needs to be done. Instead, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak needs to be advised that nothing short of a fullscale royal commission should be appointed to undertake a “get-go through” structural reform of the entire Higher Educational System before this becomes irreversible. Dr Collin Abraham Kuala Lumpur

Asri must play by the rules
I DO not understand the fuss over the arrest of former Perlis mufti, Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, by Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor for giving religious talks without the department’s permission (“Najib denies govt hand in Asri’s arrest”, Nov 3). The law on this is clear: in order to give talks or sermons on Islam in Selangor, one has to have the permission of the state Religious Affairs Department. That is the law and many have been arrested, prosecuted and punished under this law. Asri’s arrest seems to have aroused the ire of many, particularly politicians, on both sides of our political divide. Why? Is it because of Asri’s stature and reputation? We like to talk about the rule of law and that all men are equal before the law. Why should Asri be treated differently? Let him prove before the court that he has done nothing wrong like anyone else charged formerly with the same offence. If the law is bad, then we should take steps to repeal it. Otherwise we will continue to have this periodic exercise in knee-jerking and finger-pointing which reflects negatively on our societal and political maturity. Datuk Dr Shamsuddin Kassim Petaling Jaya

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