School unity programme: We must teach teachers first
By A.A., Johor Baru
17 April, 2007
I REFER to Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kinâ€™s order to school administrators to speed up programmes to promote racial harmony in schools (NST, April 11). He said the government wanted to create an environment where students could mix and learn about each otherâ€™s cultures and customs.
However, I wonder how this programme can achieve its goals when there are no role models whom students can look up to in schools.
The adults around them are the teachers and administrators who do not practise what is being preached.
Most teachers prefer to sit among their own ethnic groups in school staff rooms, just like the students who seat themselves according to their racial groups in class.
As a class teacher, I make sure that my students do not sit with classmates of the same race. But once I leave the class, they regroup themselves according to their own race.
When I go for outdoor activities with students and fellow teachers, I often see teachers grouping themselves in chalets or tents with people of their own race.
Once, I was asked to occupy the next chalet as several teachers of the same race wanted to be together in the chalet I had picked.
Once, I attended a course and was required to stay in a hotel room with a coursemate. However, that particular person did not turn up in my room. I realised the next day that she was sharing a room with two other coursemates of the same race.
She was willing to share a single bed with another teacher whom she didnâ€™t know rather than stay with me because, according to her, it was “easier”. I didnâ€™t know what she meant by that.
On another occasion, on our school sports day, I assembled a team of athletes for the relay event. They were of different races.
One of the athletes asked me: “Teacher, how can I run with this boy of another race? Please change.” This is the situation in many schools.
There are few occasions for students to witness racial harmony and integration among teachers in schools.
How can we as teachers convince our students to integrate when there are no role models for them?
The ministry faces an uphill task in this matter.
Before implementing programmes for students, we need to change the mindset of educators and administrators in schools first.
In this issue, I must stand behind our beloved Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Taib Mahmud, on his ability to unite the more than 30 different ethnic groups in Sarawak (the East Malaysian state located in Borneo Island). Seldom do we hear our CM uses the phrase “kita orang Melayu” which literally means “we, the Malay race” in his public speeches.