Thursday, April 13, 2006

PSD Scholarship: Disabled Not Worthy?

It seems like a yearly affair that the PSD Scholarship fiasco will be highlighted in the mainstream newspapers. It's no different this year. This time however, the focus is on the eligibility of disabled persons to receive this very much sought scholarship and it's seriously leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

I've always wondered why do they have that section in the application forms questioning if you are disabled or not. Is it meant to be some sort of discrimination? Now I know why! It is meant to discriminate however way they are trying to spin it.

Albert's plight has even caught the attention of the Cabinet who is determined to assist him in getting the right scholarship and assistance required to pursue his tertiary education. It's the same every year that the top guns of the country must get involved before the situation can be resolved.
12-A Wong can't get scholarship

PETALING JAYA: He was a straight-A scorer all through his student days, topping his school with 12 1As in his SPM exam last year. While others did well with the help of tuition classes, wheelchair-bound Albert Wong concentrated on his lessons in class.

As the country's top special-needs student, he was exhilarated that he was one step closer to achieving his ambition of being a lawyer for people with disabilities.

And he was looking forward to sharing his hopes and vision at the short-listing interview for the Public Services Department (PSD) scholarships. But he received a letter of rejection instead.

Deeply disappointed that he was not even called for the interview, he is, however, more concerned about the lack of opportunities for academically-successful special students.

"I am supposedly the top disabled-student in the country. If I don't get a shot at the PSD scholarship, then what are the chances of other special students?" said Wong, 18, who suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dsytrophy, characterised by progressive muscle weakness, and thus requires assistance with physical activities.

Despite his immobility, he participated in inter-school quizzes and competitions, public-speaking activities and school runs on his wheelchair.

Although Wong, who has applied for other scholarships, does not intend to appeal PSD's decision, he wants the Government and society to take note of his rejection.

"The Government does not have special provisions for excellent disabled students," said Wong, who is now taking his A-Levels at a private college.

"I want to open their eyes so that other disabled students who do well academically will have a chance at the scholarships in the future."

Wong noted that even on the application form, applicants had to tick if they were able or disabled, and questioned the purpose of this.

PSD corporate communications chief Hasniah Rashid said the department had to consider whether or not the course applied for by a disabled was suitable.

"For example, we can't accept a blind student for medicine, as he will not be able to do some of the practical work.

"We also have to see if the necessary facilities are available in the local preparatory colleges where they will undergo the first stage of the programme (pre-university studies)," she said.

She told The Star that there were disabled students who had been called for the scholarship interviews but was unable to provide the exact number.

In Wong's case, Hasniah said, he might have been disadvantaged because he was a pure-science student but had applied for an economics degree for which applicants need at least a 2A in Basic Economics and either Principles of Accounts, Commerce or Entrepreneurship Studies – subjects that he did not take in his SPM exam.

Albert, who was planning to apply to change his option to law if he had been successful in getting the scholarship, said pursuing the sciences at the tertiary level would have been a problem.

"I wouldn't be able to do all the practical work. I would have appreciated the opportunity to explain this if I had been called for an interview," he said.
To be frank, I was actually very disappointed about his inability to be called for an interview for the scholarship purely because he was disabled. However, after getting the full extent of the story, I feel less sorry for him. Seriously, if you don't even know how to fill up an application form correctly, even if you Einstein, you do not deserve to receive the scholarship. If you wanted to do law (which is obviously suitable for a disabled person), then you should have noted in the application form that you wanted to do law. You don't put economics when you know you are not qualified to do economics. That's just digging your own grave.

There are always prerequisites to a certain course and that should always be observed. You don't expect people to bend the rules just for you, do you? No one is entitled that privilege, abled or disabled, smart or intellectually challenged, tall or vertically challenged and what nots. If filling up a simple application form is such a challenge, what more a professional course in law, medicine or economics?!?

Like I've said before, scholarships are not god-sent. It's not a reward. You have to EARN it. Getting the grades alone is not enough to justify you getting the scholarship. You have to make a case for yourself and convince the selection committee why they should award the scholarship to you instead of the others competing with you for the same scholarship.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for our nation's best students to be helped to achieve all that they can and for our disabled students to be given some special attention but the onus is still on yourself. If you can't even help yourself to fill up the application forms correctly, how do you expect people to help you? It's totally wrong to discriminate someone just for his disabilities but if that's not the case here, then we do not have a case to debate at all.

I hope this will not lead to a can of worms being opened when the list of receipients for the scholarship which will be announced soon. Our education system definitely needs a respite from all this bad publicity and concentrate on what matters most, providing first-class education for all Malaysians.

(picture from The Star)

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  1. The PSD eventually relented, why is this so? If the PSD rejected his application in the first place, for valid reasons, then be firm on this stance. Why after a little bit of public pressure (through media), it bent its own rules?

    What we, as Malaysins, can see is that, sometimes the way to get things done is going through the media. Just add a little bit of spice and sensation, the hype gets spread all over the country and pressure mounts on the target party. More often than not, it works. Talk about sending the wrong signal.

    I, too was sorry for him initially, given his health conditions and all. But like you, after reading the details, he dropped a coupla notches in my books.

  2. the government had no choice but to cave in...they couldn't be seen as the insensitive government...the disabled person's card was drummed up by the media for this particular case and the government had their backs pressed on to the wall...

    it was a lose-lose situation for the government...just a matter of losing big or losing small...