PETALING JAYA: A bursary recipient burst into tears in front of her college mates and lecturer upon learning that her dream of going overseas to study had been dashed.
“My classmates and I watched the announcement (of the recalibrated Budget 2016) in class. I was so disheartened that I cried there,” said the student who wished to be known only as Liana, 20.
She was set to study pharmacy at King’s College in Britain but her plans are now in shambles as only the top 20 of the national bursary recipients will be sent overseas following the budget revision.
The announcement came as a shock to the 744 bursary recipients who got 9A+ in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia 2013 exams and had set their sights on getting a place in the top 20 universities in the world.
However, Liana told The Star later that she would accept the Public Service Department’s (PSD) offer to sponsor her studies locally.
“I don’t have much choice,” said the daughter of a clerk, adding that her family could not afford her university fees.
Liana was not the only one in tears.
Elayne (not her real name), 20, was sobbing when contacted by phone and was not able to continue with the interview.
Another recipient, who has been doing her university entrance interviews in Britain for the past month, is resigned to the latest development.
“I think I will just have to opt for local universities. I cannot afford to study medicine here (Britain) unless I get a scholarship,” said Evon, 20.
The situation today is very much like that of 1998 when the number of PSD-sponsored students to universities overseas was reduced due to the Asian financial crisis.
Some recipients are, however, unwilling to give up on their dreams yet.
Gerald, 20, who got an offer to study civil engineering at Imperial College London said,“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I reject this offer, there is no reason for the college to accept me in future as there are many other deserving applicants.
“I plan to look for a scholarship from the corporate sector,” added the son of a salesman.
Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said sending all 744 recipients of the national bursary overseas would cost the Government RM1bil, which would “exert unsustainable pressure” on the country’s finances.
He noted that there was no shortage of high-quality education in the country, adding that this decision by the Government was made after he, along with Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, pleaded on the students’ behalf at the Cabinet.
Admitting that this was not the “perfect solution”, Dr Wee said it was one of the ways to ensure that the bright young minds could continue their tertiary education.
“We wish to appeal for understanding and patience from those affected by this decision. It is a compromise the Government must make, given the economic challenges brought on by external factors,” the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said in a posting on Facebook.