It has been over a decade since the establishment of the National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy (Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan or ASWARA) near Padang Merbok, KL. It objective is to produce creative performers, to nurture artistic talent and develop leaders in local arts.
In fact, ASWARA is the only institute of higher learning in Malaysia that provides formal training courses in the arts, culture and heritage to Malaysians.
It plays a sentimental role in giving birthto future scholars, thinkers, writers, motivators and artists who are knowledgeable, professional, resilient and highly capable. The government's effort, especially the Ministry of Information, Communication and Heritage is already paying off.
In tandem with our vision to emerge as a developed nation by the year 2020, education in the arts, culture and heritage is also an important part of the agenda to develop the country. Its is our diversified culture that mends our 'bangsa Malaysia' together.
I have been to ASWARA many times, especially to watch their shows and performances. The students got superb talent. I remember PM Najib was there to watch a show about Tun Razak while former PM Tun Dr Mahathir was there for another show.
Undoubtedly ASWARA has made many great advancements but the government, notably the ministry seem to be neglecting it in some aspects.
ASWARA makes us proud because it is another 'Berkeley' in the country. However, it is sad to note that the academy is being mistreated. I dont know what Datuk Rais Yatim or Sec-Gen Datuk Kamaruddin got to say about this. ASWARA is being treated as a third-class academy despite offering diplomas in about 15 disciplines.
There are about 800 students, only a few of whom stay in the hostel. The rest has to find houses or rooms elsewhere.
About 70 per cent of its students came from Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan and other States. They are 'kampung' boys and girls who are willing to go against all odds to attain their dream of becoming professional musicians, singers, orchestra conductors, film producers, choreographers, dancers, etc.
But their welfare is not being taken care off. They are not eligible for a single sen of our PTPTN study loan. Why? Are ASWARA certs and diplomas not recognised by the government and its agencies? Why didnt the ministry do anything about it?
The fees are not cheap either. Most students from the rural areas are poor, so poor that they sometimes have to share or skip meals! Of course, they dont expect much from their parents. They are like beggars when it come to utility and daily needs.
Sorry to say, this 'poor' condition has led to an alarming social problem among some of them, especially those without a place in the hostel. They are forced to to 'anything' for survival, to pay rentals, transportation, meals, mobile phones and others.
Some parents say ASWARA is turning into an ASMARA. I agree!
I hope Rais and his officials take a deeper look into this problem. It belongs to the government. If we cant take care of it, especially the students' welfare, better close it for good. Do not turn the students into destitute and prostitutes.
Unless we want to see sex videos being produced by some of them!