BATU KAWAN: A plot of land, four estate staff quarters and a container do not a school make. But that’s exactly what 134 students in Batu Kawan Tamil school in Penang have been saddled with in addition to encroaching wild vegetation and snakes!
Fearful of their children’s safety and frustrated at their community leaders, several angry parents from the school banded together to form the school’s Parent Action Committee (PAC) in the hope of pressuring the state and federal governments into allocating some funds to build a new school.
Their efforts, however, have proved futile, according to PAC chairman A Annadurai.
“We have tried to see the politicians including (Deputy Chief Minister Dr P) Ramasamy for funds but have not been successful.
“The state government said it has given us land… now we have to ask the federal government for money to build the school.
“But this also is not easy… we have sent several memorandums to the federal and state governments. But they have not replied … they don’t seem keen on helping us build a new school,” he said, adding that parents were trying to raise the RM2 million needed to rebuild the “almost 100- year-old school”.
Another parent, Thanaletchumi, said, the school is no longer safe for students.
“The school building is now surrounded by jungle and it’s become a breeding ground for snakes.
“The school authorties recently caught a snake in one of the classroom,” she said, adding that everytime the school organised a programme, local leaders would come and make promises that never were fulfilled.
According to Annadurai, what is most frustrating is that other vernacular schools – Chinese and Malay – in the area are “beautiful buildings”.
“As an Indian I feel ashamed and disappointed seeing Batu Kawan Tamil school and what has happened to my people.
“After all these years our students are using a small container and the estate quarters as their classrooms.
“The Chinese and Malay schools in the area are beautiful buildings. Our school is a cowshed… it’s a symbol of the discrimination against Indians in the country,” he said.
The original, almost century-old Batu Kawan Tamil school building was destroyed in a fire eight years ago.
In an immediate reaction, the school was offered the temporary use of four estate staff quarters.
But what was temporary went on to become permanent!
When the school’s student enrolment increased, the school authorities ventured to ask the state administration for help and the then BN government gave them a container!
Just after Pakatan Rakyat took over Penang in 2008, the school was allocated a two-acre plot.
No difference between BN and Pakatan
But with no funds they cannot build their school, said Annadurai.
“Even though the school was given two acres for the new building, until today there is no development,” he said, adding that neither the school authorities nor the existing Parent-Teacher
Association were any help.
Some 250 Indian families live around the school.
Asked if the state government had come forward with any other forms of support recently, he said:
“Pakatan or BN, for us it is nothing new; their goal is to ensure that Indians remain poor and depend on their support for school books…
“I think the government does not want to face the Indian community… it is playing politics with the school issues,” he said.
Annadurai added that what was shocking was that Batu Kawan Tamil school came under the purview of Ramasamy.
Ramasamy is MP for Batu Kawan which has 9,000 Indian voters.