Fury erupts online over ministry’s move to delay physical student intakes at public universities

Higher Education Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad was mocked for the sudden announcement, comparing her with the stereotype of students who handed in their assignments late. — Bernama pic
Higher Education Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad was mocked for the sudden announcement, comparing her with the stereotype of students who handed in their assignments late. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Malaysians have reacted with anger over the Higher Education Ministry’s sudden “recommendation” for public universities to postpone ongoing student intakes and registrations.

After the ministry issued the “advice” yesterday, upset students pointed out that they have already made travel arrangements to attend their respective universities and were left in a lurch.

Many expressed fears that they would be left stranded again as they had been when the movement control order was first announced in March.

Several took to making memes mocking Higher Education Minister Datuk Noraini Ahmad for the sudden announcement, comparing her with the stereotype of students who handed in their assignments late.

Others demanded outright that she step down from her post over the ministry’s handling of the matter.

“Minister of higher education, please resign. That is all,” one such person said online.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican’s message that he was “closely following” the Higher Education Ministry’s decision drew similar disdain from Malaysians.

One Malaysian admonished Reezal and said citizens as well as unelected politicians have responded more concretely than he has, especially when he was directly responsible for the welfare of youths most affected by the postponement.

“‘Following closely’ is not enough, youth is your portfolio, sir. The Muda party is doing more than you. Unelected officials have done more than you. A child baker is doing more than you. This isn’t a game of football. This is real life. ‘Following closely’??? My god,” the person wrote on Twitter.

Yesterday afternoon, the Higher Education Ministry “advised” all public tertiary learning institutions to defer physical student intakes in view of growing Covid-19 cases and said this should be shifted online along with ongoing classes.

Since the Higher Education Ministry’s announcement yesterday, ordinary Malaysians have mobilised to try and assist the students most affected by the decision.

Some such as UiTM senior lecturer Tengku Elena Tengku Mahamad broadcast an offer of assistance.

“Hello! I’m one of the lecturers from UiTM Shah Alam. My husband and I would like to help any students who are stranded here at the moment. If you need any monetary help, please DM me,” she wrote on her Twitter page.

She was not alone, however, as she quickly noted the generosity of fellow Malaysians who also made other offers of assistance.

“Oh wow! Didn’t realise a lot of people are offering help too! Bless all of you for wanting to help students not just from UiTM but other unis too. Every little help counts. If there are students who want other type of help like advice on studies, still, dm me,” she said shortly after.

Aside from private citizens, former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s Muda party has also sprung into action.

Aside from private citizens, former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s Muda party has also sprung into action. — Bernama pic
Aside from private citizens, former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s Muda party has also sprung into action. — Bernama pic

The party launched a crowdfunding effort to assist affected students and was able to raise over RM51,000 that would go towards helping those in need.

Syed Saddiq also issued a message criticising the ministry over its latest decision.

“The safety of students must be prioritised but this does not legitimise the U-turn after U-turn harming the welfare of students.

“What will come of students from Sabah and Sarawak?” he said, pointing out that students have already spent heavily on their travel and housing arrangements to attend their respective universities only to be told at the 11th hour to return home.

He demanded that the ministry compensate the affected students adequately, saying it should be responsible for its own failures.

Elsewhere, the decision has fanned the anger of Malaysians who blamed politicians and their antics for causing what was threatening to be the next wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.

Malaysia has experienced an explosion of new cases after a Sabah state election campaign was held even as Covid-19 cases and clusters spread across the state.

Yesterday, Malaysia reported its highest ever single-day tally of 287 new cases.

This appeared to have erased some Malaysians’ faith in the ability of the government to protect them from the pandemic, as they began promoting the #RakyatJagaRakyat to replace the previous #KitaJagaKita hashtag that has been co-opted by the government.

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