Post-lockdown, strengthen food security, provide meaningful right to education

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Photograph: Silviarita/Pixabay

As more people return to work, JD Lovrenciear says policymakers must look at how we can reform and revamp these two critical sectors. 

Beef up food supply for worst-case scenario

The Covid-19 has jammed economies the world over. We still don’t know what the outcome of the Covid-19 period will be like – socially, economically and politically. 

But we cannot dismiss the prospect of the US dollar collapsing followed by a tensions between the US and China. Optimists and the learned might brush this aside as unlikely.  

But for a small nation like Malaysia, which subscribed to the 21st Century mantra of progress, prosperity and development, our main concern is food security and whether it can last beyond two months, six months or a year.  

We need policymakers to rethink now.  

We need to educate urbanites on how to grow food crops. We need to unleash farmers who can transform every arable and neglected plot of land into food production farms. We need to examine our stocks of granaries. 

We need to rewire fast to ensure that 32 million people will not go hungry. This must be at the top of agenda. Do not wait for imported food supply to dwindle. 

Our towering concrete-and-glass structures will not feed us. Our property markets cannot save us, if God forbid, war breaks out. 

We need to educate everyone on how to respond, react and save lives when the next crisis erupts.  

Many of us have little knowledge of survival tactics and knowhow. We have grown up to believe and expect the military to save us with food, safe dwellings and handouts. 

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The healthcare system needs an enormous vault of appropriate medicine and supplies. Do we have them? 

Stock market success is not the answer.  Or shall we just dismiss all this and carry on seperti biasa (as usual)?

Post-Covid-19, what does right to education mean?

While the world remains glued to the frightening and hope-eroding coronavirus ravages, it is time to re-examine the power of education. 

The right to education undisputedly is enshrined in every political system the world over – from socialism to communism to democracy. 

That right to education for every child is the cornerstone that determines whether a nation progresses or eventually crumbles into a backwater country. 

I have been a teacher, lecturer, university consultant and trainer these past four decades. And many will agree that we have talked much, hoped endlessly, but have not yet made education a right for every citizen. 

While laws are in place to make education compulsory throughout formative childhood, education in Malaysia however has left our society disillusioned despite six decades of self-rule. 

Private education was seen as the panacea to return to education that quality and credential that makes the right to education meaningful.

But it only served well for those who had the means to sponsor their children at prestigious institutions of learning. 

We kept failing decade after decade – the glaring failure being that of dividing education into two systems: failure and success. 

If we have the money and the means, we can buy prestigious education. If we don’t, then we must go through the stumbling blocks of public schools and institutions. 

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The widespread tuition industry was seen as a solution to a failed public schools system. 

When education is no more seen as the people’s right nor a government’s sacrosanct duty to fulfil, we end up paying for that right to education – both through private or public institutions. 

Today as we struggle with a looming economic threat, precariously trying to put economy before health safety, every parent and every child has to worry about paying for that right to education. 

Yet we are unwilling to reclaim our right to education that is the only pathway to build a greater Malaysia despite the challenges in our way like this Covid-19. 

We are willing to send our children to private schools. We are willing to struggle to put our young in private colleges and universities. 

And when we cannot find that kind of money, we choose the better of the worst public schools or pray for a seat in public universities. 

The existence of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation  (PTPTN) student loans scheme tells you that even public institutions do not provide the right to education for all, especially the lower-income groups. We have to repay the loan eventually, on top of the many expenses shouldered during 17 years of education. In short, education has become primarily a business. The right to education is only in law. 

The right to education is also symbiotically intertwined with the quality of education. Quality is manifested in the passion, virtues and values planted in the students. It is about investing in a future for and by a nation.

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We also know that education in Malaysia is stuck in marshland. We are short on quality. And so lucrative private education thrives – taking away that right to education from every citizen. 

If we can make billionaires and millionaires, why can we not make education our foremost beacon of hope and milestone of distinction? Must we believe the dictum that there can only be one Harvard, one Oxford or one Cambridge? 

When the quality of education is compromised; when that right to education is measured by what we can afford; when the right to education is only in the lines of the policies and accompanying the laws of this nation and when that right cannot be fulfilled by a government for all people, then our nation is destined to fail in totality. 

That failure may be attributed to not just the government. It is also not the sole doing of investors and business cartels who see education as a route to guaranteed profits. It is the failure of all of us. 

Will this period of immense trials and tribulations brought upon us by the coronavirus virus ignite a revolution in our hearts to put back education on its right path? 

Will we be fired up enough to return to every young person, including those who not yet born, that sacred right to education with pristine quality, value and distinction? 

Will we have what it takes to make the right to education not based on how much money we have but based on how passionate we are to be educated? 

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