GEORGE TOWN (May 5, 2008): Opalyn Mok
Last year, prescription spectacles were distributed to poor students in several Tamil schools without a glitch but when the state executive councillor for education tried to carry on with the programme now, he was stopped from doing so by the state Education Department.
Dr P. Ramasamy, who is also the deputy chief minister II, informed the state Education Department of his intentions to distribute spectacles to 223 pupils from 11Tamil schools in Seberang Perai Utara.
"We planned to do it on May 12 during school hours in a Tamil school in Jawi so that it is easier for the pupils to turn up and receive the spectacles," he said.
However, the department told Ramasamy they are not allowed to go ahead with the programme during school hours.
"They told us that it would disrupt the schooling hours of the pupils so we should not organise it during school hours," he told a press conference today.
"It is ridiculous to expect us to organise this after school hours because these pupils may not have transportation then and they are all from poor families."
Ramasamy said he is not going to let this rest as he plans to write in to the department to appeal and set another date to distribute the glasses.
"It doesn't make sense that last year, Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, who was the executive councillor for education then, could distribute spectacles during school hours but this year, we are not allowed to do it," he said.
He said this is probably because of a directive to the state Education Department from the Education Ministry to prohibit members of the state government from holding programmes in schools.
"They should not politicise this at all. What do they think we are going to do in these schools? These are primary school pupils, how do they think we are going to influence them to vote?" he asked.
Ramasamy urged the department to reconsider its decision as the spectacles are meant to help the poor pupils.
In late March, the department confirmed it had received a verbal directive to take a "neutral stand" for the time being and that schools should not invite anyone from any political parties for official functions.
It is learnt that all schools in the five states controlled by the Pakatan Rakyat have been verbally advised to adopt this stand.