By Islamic Renaissance Front
Education is fundamentally about the discovery of truth. To say that the truth is to be discovered is to say that it is to be disclosed upon a process of meaningful and critical reflection.
That process will be difficult at times, confusing and disappointing even, as there is rarely ever an instant, straightforward moment of understanding. But this is precisely what separates true learning from mere memorization, blind obedience or indoctrination. The student in a genuine learning process is an open and active seeker, willing and prepared to test all necessary ideas, as much as he or she is a recipient of knowledge.
The end moment, when the relief of clarity finally ensues, is its most immediate reward. There, the ability to look back to see the treaded path – to see who we were before and after the discovery – is evidence of what we are capable of.
Education then, however much it is a public right, is by its very nature, deeply personal. This is for the simple fact that the process demands an engaged inquirer who recognizes him or herself in the learning process.
This is also why freedom is so important for education. For the end product we hope for after all is an educated person. Education is an asset not because it will help us obtain jobs, or attract foreign investors (which sadly has been the dominant meaning given to it so far). Education is an asset because it fulfils us as human beings.
As Paole Freire said in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.”
The student then is not simply to be valued for the amount of factoids that have been memorized, but the extent to which the virtues of openness, curiosity and intellectual empathy and dynamism – virtues that helps us become better communicators – were cultivated in that learning process. The enhancement of those virtues, if they are to be meaningful, cannot be forced, but must be adopted willingly by the student as a seeker of knowledge.
The maturing of our collective worldviews, and consequently, the establishment of a truly civil society, depends on it.
Education in Malaysia
The fundamental ideals of education render the brutal treatment of our Mahasiswa on New Year’s Day all the more intolerable and inhumane.
Make no mistake: this did not happen overnight. It was a culmination of a tension that had brewed for years.
The students, peacefully demanding what is merely a fundamental human right, can no longer bear being treated like cogs in a machine.
The students, having to live through Malaysia’s higher education system first hand, can openly attest to how our universities are not the safe space for exploration they are, by definition, meant to be. Rather, our universities have merely become funnels for state propaganda and domination.
The key principles of AUKU are oppressive enough but the bloody Sunday we just witnessed confirms the extent of the state’s commitment to dismantle all dissent. The state is no longer merely restrictive (being restrictive any rate, has never been something the state had a problem admitting to), it is also a shameless aggressor against the most vulnerable members of its own citizenry.
As an organization dedicated to the empowerment of youths, the Islamic Renaissance Front is deeply saddened and condemns the brutal treatment of our Mahasiswa on New Year’s Day.
We regard the open affront against our students as an open affront against all Malaysians and our aspirations to be a progressive and democratic society.
We call for our universities to live up to what they are supposed to be: the realm of discovery and exploration that all civilized societies must have to ensure their progress and dynamism.
We call our universities to provide all the resources and support necessary to shape our students into thinkers and innovators, in hope of seeing their eventual contribution to Malaysia’s political discourse as responsible and critically thinking citizens.
We call for an end to the hypocrisy: on one hand, our universities are demanded to compete with the best in the world. On the other, the state is resorting to violence against their students.
The powers that be typically boast of the generosity of loans they provide to the students as evidence of their seriousness about education. But it is a fundamental flaw to think that this should be seen as an act of “generosity” on their part.
By framing in those terms, they make it appear as if they are doing us a favour, when in reality, they are just doing what they are supposed to. Quality education, in a free environment, is a fundamental human right, not a product that we have to beg the state to be “generous” about.
In an authentic hadith, the Prophet S.A.W said that “the best Jihad is to speak a word of truth before an unjust ruler”. On Sunday, Malaysia saw a most noble example of that very act.