Ex-soldiers to enforce school discipline amid spiralling delinquency and crime

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 12:00am

Retired troops will be sent into Malaysian schools to combat rampant indiscipline, according to a recently announced government plan.

Parents and teachers say it will turn schools into boot camps and amplify the problem, not solve it.

The government announced last week that former soldiers would be retrained and employed as disciplinary and physical education teachers, but it is unclear what punishments they will be able to mete out as teachers are not allowed to strike students.

'Their mere presence ... would promote discipline,' said Education Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, who has launched a 'zero indiscipline' campaign.

Rowdiness is on the rise, with police saying they investigated 5,320 criminal cases involving students last year, a 22 per cent increase from 2003. Most cases involved drug abuse, robbery, extortion, rape and murder.

Last week, police broke up two criminal syndicates that specialised in recruiting students to traffic drugs and collect protection money. Two students were killed and dozens more injured last year in clashes. Everyone acknowledges the problem but there is disagreement on how to deal with it.

Ideas from sacking students to stationing police officers in classrooms, reintroducing public caning and confining 'bad' students have been floated as solutions.

But it is the insertion of former soldiers that has been most widely condemned. Many have argued it is an attempt to find jobs for some of Malaysia's 500,000 retired and largely unskilled soldiers.

'A school is no place for former soldiers,' said a retired college lecturer, whose three children are in secondary schools. 'The very thinking behind this plan is at fault.'

He said soldiers were trained to blindly obey while teenagers were naturally independent.

'They will go for each other's throats,' he said.

Malaysia's normally docile newspapers have also criticised the plan.

The Star said the plan was noble but there were many military 'bad hats' that would not fit into a civilian role. 'Can they be teachers and gentlemen first and soldiers last,' the paper asked.

The influential Nanyang Siang Pau Chinese-language daily said the plan would fail because soldiers were poorly educated and practised a tyrannical method of absolute submission that was totally inappropriate in a learning environment.

A spokesman for the Malaysian Ex-servicemen's Association welcomed the move saying former soldiers were loyal citizens, desperately in need of jobs.