Student with 9As denied admission at varsity due to disability, group claims

Student with 9As denied admission at varsity due to disability, group claims
Student with 9As denied admission at varsity due to disability, group claims

Student group Concerned UM Indian Graduates (Cumig) claimed that a disabled student was denied the chance to pursue her tertiary education at a local public university due to her physical disability.

A letter to Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad submitted by Cumig and sighted by Malaysiakini shows that Karishma (not her real name), a wheelchair-bound 2019 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia candidate, received 9As in her examination, thus meeting the minimum requirement making her eligible to pursue higher education at a public university.

“Karishma was shortlisted for UKM’s Asasi Pintar Pre-University Programme (APP) and attended an interview as well as completed all the documents required, including a video submission.

“However, during the UPU Online Update Phase, her previous application was blank and she was eligible to only choose from two diploma programmes and 20 community college certifications

“There are 20 public universities, 36 polytechnics and four public skills training institutions (in Malaysia), yet Karishma was only given the opportunity to apply for two diploma programmes and to community colleges because of her physical disability,” Cumig representative Thanasegar Ramasamy wrote in a letter dated June 19.

UPU Online is an application system for students to apply for programmes at public tertiary education institutions.

The UPU Online Update Phase was initially opened for seven days, starting from June 15, to allow SPM leavers to update their applications, according to their examination results, for the 2021/2022 academic session. The deadline has just been extended to July 2.

Thanasegar claimed that Karishma then made inquiries through the UPU website’s feedback system.

She claimed that the officer in charge told her that she was unable to pick other university programmes, even though she is qualified, because they did not have the facilities to cater to disabled candidates.

In another document sighted by Malaysiakini, UPU Online said that the applicant was only able to apply for disabled-friendly programmes that have been predetermined by the university, based on the type of disability faced by the applicant.

Thanasegar added that Karishma's was not an isolated case as there was another disabled applicant who faced similar issues when applying through UPU Online.

At the time of writing, Thanasegar claimed that UKM and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had contacted him to look into the matter and have been responding communicatively.

Malaysiakini is attempting to contact UKM and UPU Online for comment.

Meanwhile, Damai Disabled Persons’ Association Malaysia (DDPAM) voiced its support for Cumig’s call.

“The explanation given to Karishma clearly indicates discrimination against disabled persons in the education sector for those who have worked hard to get admitted into public higher education institutions (IPTA).

“We truly believe that the eligibility for admission into public universities should be based on merit through public examination results, such as SPM and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM), and not the physical disabilities of a person or the existence of disabled-friendly facilities on campus,” DDPAM president V Murugeswaran said.

He said the association hopes that the ministry will take the necessary steps to resolve the issues raised in Cumig’s letter.

In July 2010, Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, it is not fully implemented in the country as interpretative declarations have been made on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, as stated under Article 3(b), 3(e) and 5(2).

Prior to the ratification, Malaysia enacted the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008.

Section 28 of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 provides for the right of persons with disabilities to receive general education - pre-school, primary, secondary and higher education, including vocational training - on an equal basis with persons or children without disabilities.

DDPAM joined Cumig in highlighting that disabled students should be given the same educational opportunities provided to abled students as per Article 8 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

“Equal opportunities to education is one of the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution and we stress that all persons with disabilities be given opportunities to pursue education at public universities in their chosen field, regardless of whether the campus is disabled-friendly,” Murugeswaran said.

The real name of Karishma has not been used in this report in order to protect her identity.