The leaked ‘hotspot’ schools list involving 402 schools nationwide made its rounds on the internet recently in which the police have assured their Community Security and Crime Prevention Department’s Community Policing are addressing the problem.
“This does not mean we do not pay attention to schools which are not in the list, only that we give more attention to the schools in the list to contain the problems, to control and identify the beginning, so that it does not continue to spread,” said its assistant director Datuk Zainal Abu, who affirmed their department is collaborating with the Education Ministry, under the National Blue Ocean Strategy, to curb discipline issues faced by these schools.
Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid earlier expressed the schools are a to-do list and not a blacklist, hence the public should not misunderstand the list.
“Parents need not be upset with the label. The ministry has a criteria to determine which schools (are on the list), and if they are on it, it does not mean that the whole school has a problem.
“For instance, if there are 900 students, only one or two (are problematic), which means the percentage is not much, but the school has to improve,” he said, according to Bernama.
But despite the assurance that measures are in place for the schools in the list and that they will be properly dealt with moving forward, the question still remains: how bad are the schools in the list really?
Alumni And Current Student Speak Up
Malaysian Digest caught up with a former student to one of the schools in the list, Mohd Shazril Ahmad Shukri, 29, who believes his school definitely deserves a place on the list.
Shazril, who studied for five years at the infamous Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Seri Garing, in Rawang, shared some bad experiences he had during his time going to school.
Mohd Shazril Ahmad Shukri
“There were a lot of incidences during my time there. Fights happened almost every day in the school.
“The school was fraught with racial incidents back then, which is why students were so divided. The Indians had their own gang, so did the Chinese, and the Malays,” said Shazril, who is now a training officer at a major retailer.
Shazril also added that the sight of the police at the school grounds is nothing new, as the authorities frequented the school grounds often, as gang fights and disciplinary problems are fairly normal there.
Although Shazril said that he was never really targeted in school, he admitted to being involved in a few fights as well.
“There was this one incident where the Chinese students beat up my friends and I because they thought that one of us was getting too friendly with a Chinese girl in our class.
“I was also once assaulted by a group of Indian students, but luckily the other Malay students and the discipline teacher came to our rescue,” he relayed, while confessing despite its problematic state, transferring to another school was never an option.
“I had no choice. Students are placed in schools based on their address, and we cannot simply be transferred to another school as we would like to.
“The only choice I had if I were to be transferred to another school was to SMK Rawang, which is just as bad as my school at that time,” he remarked.
But surprisingly enough, even after all he went through, Shazril shared that he would still send his own children to the same school.
“It's because there are a lot of good and experienced teachers in the school. Even though the number of bad students in the school is quite high, the school is also very good academically, having one of the highest percentages of high achievers in the region,” Shazril points out.
Because of this, Shazril also believes that parents whose children are in the ‘hotspot’ schools list should not panic.
“Yes I agree that the school has disciplinary issues, but they can't blame the school for that. Gangsterism comes from outside the school.
“Parents play an equally important role as well in guiding their children so that they won't get involved in it. It is not fair to put the blame on the school,” he opined.
While Shahirul Aisya who went to SMK Sungai Kertas, another school that appeared in the same list, for five years, from 2003-2008.
As a girl, Aisya faced different problems in her school, unlike Shazril’s. Her bad experiences in school involved harassment, rather than being bullied or assaulted.
“Every day, some of the problematic students will sit at the hallways or the stairways, and harass the female students.
“We faced catcalls, even vulgar and sexually charged phrases from the boys. We tried to complain to the teachers, but because they didn't lay their hands on us, there was really not much the teachers could do,” said Aisya.
Aisya also said that during her time there, there were too many disciplinary issues in the school to count.
“You name it. Drugs, teenage pregnancy, gang fights, we had it all,” said the now 26-year-old teacher.
But because of her bad experience, Aisya who currently teaches in a private school in Kuala Lumpur says that she would ensure her students do not find themselves in the same predicament as her.
“Perhaps that was the good thing about going to school there, for me. I had experienced it myself, so I know now how to ensure that my students do not make the same mistakes that some of my schoolmates did,” said Aisya.
Though unlike Shazril, Aisya’s bad experience has made her stay away from sending her own children to the same school.
“There's just too much issues with the school. I think that my children would be better served going to another school, where they will be safer,” she said, adding the problem with her alma mater is that they accept every student, even those who were expelled from their previous schools.
Aisya also relayed due to the problematic state, her parents have refrained from sending her youngest brother to the same school.
“My parents didn't want to deal with the issues, so they sent him to another school,” she said.
We also spoke with a current student from SMK Seri Garing, Siti Noor Farishah.
Farishah said that she first heard of the list when it was brought up during the school's assembly.
But surprisingly, she thinks that it is entirely undeserved for her school to be listed, and as the days where SMK Seri Garing is thought to be one of the worst schools in Selangor, have long passed.
“I love my school. There are so many nice and good teachers, and some of our teachers are considered the best in Selangor, Malaysia even.
“The facilities in the school are also very good, such as the well-equipped canteen,” she justified.
The Form 6 student also said that since she started schooling there (2012 till now), there had never been a noteworthy incident.
And despite acknowledging that her school has a bad reputation, she personally feels her school is really good and would not consider a transfer.
“For me, this kind of issue happens because there are always two types of students in a school ─ those who are interested to study, and those who are not.
“The ones that are not interested are the problematic ones, as they are prone to truancy and other disciplinary problems. But the rest are interested in their studies and are hard working,” she clarified.
Parents, Don’t Panic!
After the list had gone viral, the Education Ministry had received a number of complaints from furious parents who protested against their children's school being in the list.
However, Amir Rahman, 46, whose son is currently in his second year in SMK Darul Ehsan told us he was not surprised to see his son's school in the list.
Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Darul Ehsan
“The school has always been plagued with bad disciplinary issues, so when I saw my son's school in the list, it didn't surprise me at all,” he said, admitting he has heard a lot of complaints on issues with regards to the school.
“Gangsterism, bullying, truancy, it's all something quite normal for that school, but luckily enough, my son has never been involved with any untoward incidents so far.
“Maybe because I keep a close eye on my son's activities, he has never been involved with anything like that,” he stated.
His advice to other parents, is that they should not panic even though their children's school is on the list.
“Like myself, even though my son’s school is on the list, I think that the level and quality of education provided is still good.
“The school still produces quite a number of high achievers, so I don't think that there is any reason for them to panic,” he heeded.
When asked if he considered transferring his son to a different school in light of the list, he replied, “Why should I? My son is doing well in the school, and he has good teachers and good friends. I think that parents should look at it objectively as well.
“Knee-jerk reactions, especially concerning the future of our children is never a good idea,” he further stressed.
Amir's sentiment is echoed by Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, chairman of Parent Action Group for Education.
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim
In an interview with Malaysian Digest, Noor Azimah revealed that it is unwise for parents to panic over their children's school being on the list.
“The list is more precautionary than hardcore,” she said, while highlighting that it is not a warning to parents to remove their children from their schools.
For parents who considered transferring their children from their school because of the list, she points out that it is not the only factor they should think of.
“Other factors such as the ease of location, the quality of education, and the facilities of the school should be considered as well before considering a transfer,” she noted.
Instead she believes parents should also be looking at what they can do to help the school shed their unwanted reputation.
“Parents should collaborate with the school's administration as to how matters can be improved thus benefitting students directly in the end,” Noor Azimah relayed.
“If parents had any queries, they should seek advice from the school leaders to solve their concerns and repair any weaknesses,” she suggested.
While the list may have come as a shock to some quarters, perhaps, it is not as big of an issue as some may find it to be – as every school is surely bound to have good and bad students, and it comes down to the parents and teachers to guide these children and shape them to become better individuals in life.
After all, a school’s reputation does not define who a child would turn out to be. Besides, the list is much needed so authorities can monitor the progress of the school and its students, and tackle the issue instead of sweeping it under the carpet, which will only make matters worse. So let’s not jump to conclusions, and let the ministry and the police do their jobs.