On Monday (2 December), local theatre-maker Muhammad Muazzam Amanah or better known as Zam took to his Facebook to pen his support towards activist Gilbert Goh for his effort to urge the Ministry of Education (MOE) to waive off unpaid school fees and return students’ result slips.
This matter came to light in a separate Facebook post on Monday (25 November) where Mr Goh highlighted the plight of a student whose original Primary School Leaving Examination (PLSE) result slip was withheld by MOE, as her parents had incurred S$156 in unpaid school fees.
Eventually, a Good Samaritan paid the school fees for the student so that she can get her original PSLE result slip.
In response to this, MOE told Yahoo! News Singapore the next day (26 November) that the real aim withholding the original results slip due to unpaid fees “stems from the underlying principle that notwithstanding the fact that the cost of education is almost entirely publicly funded, we should still play our part in paying a small fee, and it is not right to ignore that obligation, however small it is”.
“Further, students from lower-income families can apply for financial assistance that covers their miscellaneous fees, uniforms, textbooks, transport and school meals. If it is about money then the easier solution would be to reduce subsidies and financial assistance,” it added.
In Mr Zam’s post, he stated that while growing up, it was important for him to score decently well in his exams so he don’t get “whacked” by his mother. But when he got really good marks in his exam, then the theatremaker said that he could ask something from his mother, who’s a single-parent, as a reward.
“Back then, it could be the latest gadgets or a book I really want. This was also the only time I truly felt my mother, a single-mom, was giving her fullest attention to me. One can only imagine the eagerness and suspense I experienced when getting back my results – good or bad. I was taught to warn my keep,” he wrote.
However, little did he know that in January 2012, he was not allowed to collect his O-levels results due to unpaid school fees which amounted to S$600 plus.
“Naturally (and brattily), I was terribly upset at my mother for allowing the fees to cumulate to such exorbitant amount. I think I just dropped her a text and quickly went to a nearby ATM to withdraw money. Luckily, I had savings from the part-time retail job I did the previous holiday period,” he noted.
He added, “I remember feeling embarrassed, angry, and sad. I was the only one in my cohort who wasn’t allowed to even look at my result slip until the fees were cleared at the general office. Alhamdullillah because all that immediately went away as I saw my results… That moment was overwhelming… I did really well!”
As such, Mr Zam said that he was glad that the person he “greatly admire and respect”, Mr Goh, brought up this issue a week ago. He also noted that he shared his own experience with Mr Goh this morning with regards to this issue.
If that’s not all, the renowned stage actor also said that he is “grateful to have the opportunity to mingle and understand people from extreme ends”, and he calls himself an advocate rather than an activist.
“I am not an activist. What I am is an advocate… An advocate on issues that matters. An advocate on issues that are relevant. An advocate for a better world in which all of us can learn to co-exist together through the understanding of each other’s differences. I am proud of this record and I will continue to speak truth to power. I am informed by my personal journey and the story of others that came before me,” Mr Zam asserted.
However, he noted that he admire activists as “they are persistent in their cause and they take direct action”.
“I can only share in the happiness as I saw the community action that was rallied over the past few days led by Gilbert Goh. They have come together to create a pool of funds to be used to help those who need to settle their overdue or unpaid school fees,” he said.
He continued, “A school-going child or anyone who wants to study should not be penalised for their financial situation. We cannot enable such systemic injustices in the society we are living in. I had first-hand experience as a student struggling to get by my schooling years because based on the archaic per-capita income, I am considered as a “middle-class” individual.”
As such, Mr Zam noted that he has now joined hands with Mr Goh to reach out to anyone who needs help with their school fees.
“Regardless of your income status, if you cannot afford it, need partial help, let us know. You can connect to me directly by responding to this post, or PM-ing me, or contact Gilbert Goh directly, he said.
“I fully acknowledge that this is just a temporary solution to a much larger issue. That is why we must do all that we can… It’s a start!”