Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Young Sabahan (1)

The youth of Sabah are not any more or less teachable than the Malay bumiputras of Peninsular Malaysia. They are no less talented or skilful. They are perhaps, lesser beings in the eyes of UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

The one best method to condemn a community to eternal ignorance is by neglecting and forgetting it. In this respect, the youngsters of Sabah have been neglected for much too long.

The Young Sabahan (1)

The locum clinic I work for placed a 3X4 cm in the local Borneo Post recently. It was looking to hire a new clinic nurse to replace one who had left earlier in the month after eight years of tenure.

A total of 531 applicants from all over Sabah sent in their applications and resumẻ of sorts.

It’s not unlike an American Idol contest. The applicants were mostly young, jobless locals from the distant districts of Sabah. They had to undergo a grilling interview. The reward was less lucrative than the million-dollar record deals of a singing competition though. At the end of it all, only one will get the job – a pretty mundane and unenviable job.

Hilda is an eighteen-year-old Bajau lady from Kota Belud, about 200 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu city. The fifth of seven siblings, she had just completed secondary school, attaining a decent pass in the SPM examinations. Her life had come to a defining junction upon completion of her secondary education. Her family is unable to support Hilda for any further education. Heck, even making ends meet in this season of inflation is a struggle. She has come of age and was obliged to contribute to the family income. After eight months of being unemployed and unproductive, Hilda was under increasing pressure to do something about her life.

Opportunities and development are limited in Kota Belud.

It is never easy abandoning the comfort and confines of the familiar family nest. She is not keen to, but her options are limited. She can leave home and fend for herself in the foreign environment of Kota Kinabalu city, sending home her leftover cash, if any. Alternatively, she can resume her village life in Kota Belud, get married at a tender age and start a baby factory of her own, attaining grandmotherhood by the age of forty not unlike her own mother.

The first choice was unattractive and daunting, but was nevertheless more viable than specializing in copulation and reproduction.

Hilda was finally employed not because she was better, prettier or more impressive than the other hundreds of applicants. She was not fluent in English, far from it in fact, despite her documented ‘A’ in her SPM English. She did not write any better than the others or speak more confidently. Hilda was hired because she was willing to take up the job at the lowest offer.

For the next one year, Hilda will be working eight-hour shifts each day with one day off after three consecutive overnight shifts at the clinic. Registering patients, mixing and packing medications, phone calls and billings will be her tasks of the day. At the end of each month, Hilda will be paid RM 440.00. It runs up to about a RM 14 per day or RM 1.80 per hour – figure much lower than the standard market wages.

Without any form of self-transportation, Hilda needs to stay near the clinic. She rents a room in a flat no larger than half a badminton court. The flat houses thirteen other job-seeking young Sabahans. Hilda shares her room with another young lady. She pays RM 110 each month for her room slightly smaller than a Proton Perdana. Hilda is left with RM 330 for the next 30 days.

As comparison, my grandmother’s Indonesian helper commands a salary of RM 500 per month, with food and lodging privileges.

Stories like Hilda’s are a dime a dozen in Sabah. She is a bumiputera just like the Muslim Malays of Peninsular Malaysia.

Despite years of trumpeted, keris-wielding, battle cries of bumiputra-ism, the fruits of the New Economic Policy have eluded her for half a century.

Development is scarce in the districts of Sabah not because of the lack of funds or the absence of potential. Massive corruption at federal, state and district levels have swindled the locals of their pooled taxes. The unbelievable gambling debts of former Sabah chief minister Osu Sukam amounted to almost seven million ringgit. It a small testimony of how rich Sabah can be if its monies were entrusted in the proper hands.

National education has failed Hilda and the million other local Sabahans. Malaysian education is accessible to most folks, but at what price? Most schools away from the city of Kota Kinabalu are pillars of shame. With limited facilities, insufficient teaching staff and less than ideal environments of learning, national education becomes a farce in these district schools, not that it is any less a mockery throughout the country anyway. As in most national schools, the air is pungent with forced indoctrination and pro-government propaganda. Unlike their counterparts from the more urban areas, the young minds in the districts of Sabah do not access to alternative worldviews. Libraries are a rare sight, if and when they are available, the variety of reading material is limited. Internet is a foreign word - the people I’m writing about right now are not reading this web page right now and probably never will.

Like the many before her, Hilda complied with the teachings and contents of her education syllabus. It is written in her text books and declared by her teachers that the current Malaysian government is the best one can ask for, a government that was legitimately elected via a free, fair and just democratic process and one that safeguards the wellbeing and interests of Malaysian citizens regardless of race, religion and culture.

Life in her kampung was simple, quiet and tranquil. It could have been her be-all, end-all, her destiny forevermore if not for the fact that everyone needs to grow up and earn a living one day. As it turns out, life and survival in the real world requires more than an SPM certificate. She had trusted her teachers, her books and her school but evidently, her trust is misplaced. Sabah and Malaysia is a pretty different place that the one she had read about in her textbooks and the images she sees on her television screen. If our national school textbooks were kosher and to be believed, Malaysia is the utopia in every idealist’s dream. The reality of course, is that Malaysia is capitalist to the core supplemented with elements of communism, apartheid and Talibanism.

An erroneous and homogenous worldview in an unquestioning mind is precisely what UMNO desires from the rural population of Sabah. From Ranau to Kota Marudu, Tawau to Sandakan, Kudat to Tenom, keeping young minds in the dark about the realities of life will ensure continuous Malay supremacy in land where Malays are the minority.

Sabah has lost a generation or two to UMNO’s political hegemony.

The youth of Sabah are not any more or less teachable than the Malay bumiputras of Peninsular Malaysia. They are no less talented or skilful. They are perhaps, lesser beings in the eyes of UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

The one best method to condemn a community to eternal ignorance is by neglecting and forgetting it. In this respect, the youngsters of Sabah have been neglected for much too long.

Contrast their fate and deal in life with that of their Malay counterparts in Semenanjung Malaysia. The Malays have endless vocation institutions, double scholarships, training programs and re-training programs. Don’t Sabah’s youth deserve the same, or something similar at the very least?

I’m not one who spares the rod and spoil the child. I believe that man (and woman) should be taught to fish and not spoonfed indiscriminately. In the process of learning fishing, which I assure you might sometimes take a while, one still needs to hand them some fish every now and then.

I’ve worked in Sabah long enough to know that most young Sabahans are not typically those who will end up as ungrateful Mat Rempits and flamboyant Mat Minahs when given an opportunity to improve themselves.

They deserve a bigger role in life than merely providing cheap labor to the capitalists among us.

Hilda has no long term plans for now. She will not be sending any money back home anytime soon either. With her own survival hanging on a delicate balancing act, she will remain as one of the many faceless young Sabahans for the moment, if not forever.


CK Tan said...

yup. you are spot on again on the future of the younger generation in the rural area. the hardware facilities are here if you look around and you will find that there're lots of so-called IKBN, vocational schools etc built GIGANTICALLY. you can find those in Ranau, Sepanggar, Kundasang. the scale of the building is so big that you will be wondering anyone studies in those places? the place is so big that the whole town can stay there. good fengshui somemore cox some of them built high up the hill/mountain.

or it's just another project kerajaan BN to use up the fund and pocket some of it. and let's not start with the shoddy quality of the building which is a tickling time-bomb.

pgsiemkia said...

Can not these young sabahans work as domesticate helpers? Better and cheaper to hire than Indon or Filipino maids.If they are not choosy, then we would not have the 'pendatang problems' 10 years ago, my mum hired teenagers from Perak as domesticated helpers and had less problems than those faced now.

Anonymous said...

Hey good one. Keep up the good work in Sabah. ;) Really eye-opening. ;)

Anonymous said...

my man, not just the sabahan youth suffer,all sabahan suffer due to our selfish politacians.sabahan fight for your right.

Anonymous said...

im a anak sabah. im currently studying oversea in my final year.
It is true what you had written here. I realized the main problem why sabahan is still incompetent till nowadays, they didnt had the privilages like the bumiputeras in peninsular can we sabahans improve/catch up if the gov keep neglecting the young sabahans generation.
Even most of the overseas sponsored student here are peninsular students. Thank you for posting this blog POTS.A sad truth and its really boils my spirit. :')i really hope i can help sabahans.
first thing first,study harder..