PETALING JAYA - Improvements need to be made to the financial assistance offered by the Education Ministry to people with disabilities who are furthering their education in institutions of higher learning, say stakeholders.
Monetary aid is currently capped at a rate of RM5,000 (S$2,400) per year, or at RM20,000 per course.
According to Damai Disabled Persons Association president V. Murugeswaran, there should be no fixed amount given to disable persons seeking to further their education at a tertiary level.
"While I appreciate what the Government is doing, they should be more flexible in assisting qualified students. If a disabled person is doing a course that requires more financial assistance such as medicine, the Government should be flexible and not too rigid when supporting them in pursuing their educational aspirations," said Murugeswaran.
At a press conference last Thursday, Social Welfare Department director-general Datuk Noraini Mohd Hashim had told The Star Online that all students with disabilities were entitled to receive this financial assistance.
"The onus is on the registrar of the institution to inform the Education Ministry" said Noraini.
Noraini added that university or college registrars should inform these students of their eligibility to receive this assistance, and notify the Education Ministry that these students are studying at their institution.
The allowances are available to all students with disabilities looking to study in government or private institutions of higher learning, polytechnics, or community colleges.
Meanwhile, when contacted, Selangor and Federal Territory Association For The Mentally Handicapped general manager T. Kamaraj said RM5,000 per year was inadequate when compared with the cost of living and inflation.
He said many parents spent much more than RM5,000 per year on the education fees, accommodation fees and meals of their university-going students.
"I know of parents who spend RM3,000 per year on private pre-school education. Here you're talking about university education and you're talking about RM5,000 per year," said Kamaraj.
An online search found that a Bachelor of Arts (Social Sciences) degree at a private university can cost approximately RM34,100 per year at a private college, and therefore RM102,300 over the three-year period a student would be enrolled in a course.
A five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) would cost RM99,000 per year, totaling RM455,000 in fees spent obtaining the full degree.
Kamaraj added that people with disabilities should be given special consideration due to the limitations created by their disabilities.
"We are talking about a rights-based society and not a charity-based society and we have to walk the talk. We must do more for people with disabilities," said Kamaraj.