Sun, 27 Apr 2003

Contact embassy over return,
students in China urged

By Annie Freeda Cruez, M.K. Megan and Deborah Loh

SHAH ALAM, April 26: Malaysian university students in China wanting to return home have been asked to get in touch with the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.
"They have to seek advice from the embassy and if allowed to come back, they will be subjected to strict regulations to eliminate chances of them bringing the SARS virus into Malaysia," Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad said today.
Musa was speaking after launching the national level "Embracing the Culture of Gratitude" organised by the Selangor Education Department.
Asked if the ministry would require students in China to return, he said that if they wanted to return the Malaysian embassy in Beijing would have informed the ministry.
Yesterday, China Press reported that a group of Malaysian students studying at the University of Nanjing had sent a letter to the ministry on their intention to return, but had not received a reply.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim was reported as saying the ministry did not receive the letter.
Certain courses have since been halted, the daily said.
It also said Thailand, Japan and Britain had asked their students in China to return.
Musa said although there were no reported SARS cases in any learning institution in Malaysia the ministry had briefed education authorities on precautionary steps.
Asked if the Government would slice the ministry's budget to use the money to help certain industries reeling from the effects of SARS and the Iraq war, Musa said he was not aware of such a measure.
"There has been no discussion on this, but (if there is) the only possible thing for us to do is to review new projects under the Eighth Malaysia Plan," he said.
Projects under the Plan include building schools, universities, community colleges, polytechnics and kindergartens.
On the some 4,000 computer laboratories to be built in schools, Musa said this would go on as scheduled, and schools not equipped with a laboratory because they were too small, would be equipped with a few computers.
Earlier in his speech, Musa said the ministry received one of the highest allocations every year.
"This year, the ministry received RM26.1 billion, which is 23.7 per cent of the whole budget," he said, adding that this year alone, the ministry had allocated RM2.218 million for 12 types of aid for primary and secondary students, including the School Milk Programme, Student Aid project, a food programme, providing textbooks for the poor and scholar-ships.
He said to develop students' char-acters and personalities, the ministry has set aside RM65 million for sports, motivational and co-curriculum activities. Another RM530 million was to provide food for students in boarding and semi-boarding schools.