If all Malay parents were like the actor, Zul Yahya, Malaysia would have to rely on the ‘pendatang’ to provide our professionals, like chemists, architects, engineers, scientists, epidemiologists, virologists, IT experts, mathematicians, economists, lawyers and doctors.
On 22 February, Zul, of the Pepaya drama, uploaded posts on Instagram and Facebook to tell his fans, that he has stopped his children from going to school, because his priority is to prepare them for the afterlife.
Isn’t he very shortsighted and is starting a dangerous precedent?
More importantly, he is denying his children the right to an education, and the means to fulfil their hopes and aspirations.
Zul and his wife have been married for 14 years and have six children, three girls and three boys, whose ages range from one to nine years old. He claimed that his top priority for his children was to prepare them for the afterlife.
This is in direct opposition to all Islamic teaching, which promotes the acquisition of knowledge and is obligatory for every Muslim.
Denying criticism by his fans that he was not concerned about his six children’s future, he said that he was more concerned about their success in the afterlife. The 48-year-old said, “God willing, the knowledge of the afterlife is more important than all knowledge.”
So how many parents are like Zul? Will he be fined because all children are supposed to be schooled until they are 16-years-old?
One parent told me that many parents at her children’s primary school in Butterworth, had stopped their children’s schooling because they saw little point in education. The children would be put to better use working in the parent’s ‘nasi kandar’ stalls, preparing the client’s drinks and helping to wash the dishes. How widespread is this belief, that schooling is not of any use? Has a survey been conducted by the Ministry of Education, to find the veracity of this allegation?
Zul cannot have studied history at school, or if he did, can’t have been concentrating. Our forefathers fought hard to demand that the British provide an education for their children. They battled prejudice, a lack of qualified teachers and the social and cultural norms of the time.
When Islam was brought to the Malay peninsular by traders from India and the Arabian peninsula, education among the Malays was equated with religious learning. Imams conducted lessons in the attap schools or madrasahs, and in the 1870s, the British established free Malay-medium primary schools.
Although the education was limited, with only four years of tuition, the pupils learnt little more than basic literacy and numeracy skills, but an important trend was established.
These schools were a catalyst for social and political change. Malay girls were given access to formal education in 1885 and in 1922, British historian, Richard O. Winstedt, helped to establish the Sultan Idris Training College, to produce Malay teachers. The college became a centre of Malay intellectual life.
Education for the Chinese was not provided by the British and so the community was forced to establish and manage their own schools. As the population grew, these schools mushroomed.
The Indian community, especially those living on the estates, had no access to education until the 1923 Labour Code compelled estate owners to provide educational facilities.
Without assistance from the British, both these communities, based their curriculum on China or India.
Urban children were more fortunate as mission schools were established, and the westernised elite also started many English schools.
Many Malay fathers and grandfathers were aware that an education was crucial to lift their children, especially their daughters, out of the poverty trap.
That is why Zul’s actions are wrong. Our forefathers have always maintained that status, social class or money, should not prevent a child from gaining an education and a brighter future.
School is where our children receive the necessary foundations to either continue their studies or acquire skills to become part of the country’s workforce. School is where we learn about social skills, and interaction with other people, especially those from other cultures and faiths.
School is where we discover our potential and how to deal with our shortcomings. It is the discipline that school provides, the importance of working hard, of teamwork, and adhering to deadlines that helps build character.
An interest in certain subjects and after-school activities, will motivate a child to become a scientist, an artist or a teacher.
By all means, provide religious education after school, but formal schooling is where our children can start to build their hopes and dreams. More importantly, schools help to safeguard the long-term future of Malaysia and its economy.
Zul is very short-sighted and is damning his children to a life of poverty and ignorance.