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Thursday June 18, 2009

Hand back ‘Saint’ schools to the La Salle Brothers

YOUR report “An end of an era for La Sallians” (The Star, May 1) stirred deep emotions in the hearts of those who had studied at the 50 La Salle schools in the country. The exit of Bro Paul Ho, the last Brother Director from St Xavier’s Institution does look like the end of an era.

But Old Xaverians and Old Lasallians do pray that Bro Paul’s retirement would not be the end of the involvement of Christian Brothers in Malaysian schools. At the recent Yayasan La Salle Board meeting on June 6, former UPM Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Syed Jalaluddin, an Old Xaverian, made a passionate plea for the Christian Brothers to stay engaged in Malaysia. The meeting was chaired by Tan Sri Kamarulzaman Shariff, another Old Xaverian and a former Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, who mandated Syed Jalaluddin to sketch out a road map for the coming years.

Old Lasallians like Syed Jalaluddin and Kamarulzaman value what the Brothers have done and wish that they can do more. Unfortunately, the congregation of La Salle Brothers worldwide has shrunk. F

ewer and fewer youths in the modern world are prepared to embrace the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of educating children from impoverished families. The Brothers have to conserve their manpower and deploy their resources smartly.

The present thinking is that Old La Sallians who have friends in high places should convince the Government to hand back two schools, St John’s Institution and St. Xavier’s Institution, to the La Salle Brothers to manage and administer. At the same time, the Government should convert both schools from being sekolah bantuan modal into sekolah-sekolah bantuan penoh.

Schools like St John’s and St Xavier’s have shown that they have withstood the test of time. After all, St John’s has produced Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the present Prime Minister; Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Home Minister; Datuk Sri Nazir Tun Razak, the banker and younger brother of Najib and Raja Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak.

St Xavier’s has produced Karpal Singh, the opposition leader; Tun Hamid Omar, the former Lord President; Tan Sri Nor Nor Mohamed Yakcop, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Both schools can be depended upon to make proper use of the financial resources and enhanced powers given to them. They should be challenged - at the right moment - to bring back the academic and extra-curricular excellence that they had enjoyed in the past. These include competency in the English language, both written and spoken.

I believe making St John’s and St Xavier’s fully-aided schools and mandating the La Salle Brothers and the respective boards of governors to administer them is the answer. Taking both schools private sounds great in theory but in practice, funds would have to be raised all the time. Fees have to be charged and revised upward regularly.

Those students who cannot pay would have to be barred from attending classes. The La Salle Brothers would not be comfortable with a fee-based regime. Their philosophy is to provide education to those who need it, not only to those who can pay for it.

Syed Jalaluddin’s mission is delicate and important. As someone who had studied in a La Salle school and who had worked as a Vice Chancellor of a public university, he can bridge the communication gap between the La Salle Brothers and the politicians and civil servants.

He can get a dialogue going. For all you know, he may find an ally in the person of the PM since Najib is an Old Lasallian.

Dr GOH CHENG TEIK,

Kuala Lumpur.

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