PETALING JAYA: Providing a subsidy for school bus fares can both ease the financial burden of households, while also encouraging school attendance, say experts.
National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Fouzi Singon said pupils from families with financial difficulties would probably struggle with emotional issues and this could affect their behaviour in school.
“Meanwhile, pupils who have to skip school because of the high transport cost would also face stress.“This emotional pressure will lead to negative attitudes such as skipping school and even bullying,” he told The Star.
Since the money spent on bus fares is part of a household’s expenditure, Fouzi said a subsidy would be helpful.
Aside from the B40 (bottom 40% income) group, he said the school bus fare subsidy should also be extended to the M40 (middle 40% income) group, especially if these families had more school-going children.
“School bus fares are part of the financial burden on families, especially if they have many children, regardless of being B40 or M40.
“This is because the difference in their income might not be very significant, especially if the M40 nett salary is lower,” he said.
A targeted subsidy mechanism, with households applying through the Welfare Department (JKM) should be used, he said.
Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam agreed that the government, through JKM, should help in financing bus fares for children from households that are struggling financially.
The former NUTP secretary-general and Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) commissioner said that the subsidy would encourage these pupils to attend school without being burdened.
“It is very vital for the country (for children to get an education) and I think the government is in a position to subsidise these poor children, which aligns with its move of targeted assistance.
“At the same time, the Parent-Teacher Association of each school nationwide can also play a major role in helping them,” he added.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) education officer NV Subbarow said pupils would be more comfortable going to school if their parents could afford the bus fares via a subsidy.
“They can even attend extra classes in school (without incurring extra costs).
“They won’t be skipping classes or even drop out from school,” he said, adding that the subsidy should target specifically families in the lowest income bracket.
Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin also said that state governments that have the resources, should help solve the problem financially, or even provide free transportation.