Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fountain more important than the needs of the students

The IIUM fountain that eats up precious funds 
I am aware that the fountain in the International Islamic University Malaysia was probably sponsored by one with too much money.
I am aware that there might be separate funds for maintenance of the university. I am also aware that I am not well equipped with the knowledge of finance.
My name is Mardhiyah Siraj and I have been living in the Garden of Knowledge and Virtue also known to others as IIUM for the past three years. By writing this article, I am exercising my right to freedom of holding an opinion.
When I was 18, my perfect little bubble burst and I was no longer ignorant of the fact that IIUM existed.
My secondary school teachers and parents encouraged me to further my studies in IIUM because they claimed it was the most prominent law school in Malaysia, which then made me Google the institution to see why even my parents who have been educating their other children in private universities would want me to further my studies in a public university.
The Google image results of IIUM showed many bird’s eye view of IIUM and not only were they impressive but also magical with its blue rooftop Mediterranean architecture. I was mesmerised, so the next day, I visited the university.
At the registration counter of the main entrance of IIUM, I had a glimpse of one tenth of the whole campus and saw two things I will never forget, the fountain and the staircase to the Rectory building which reminded me of the staircase whereby Elle Woods, the only one in pink, strode up glamorously. I was convinced.
A few semesters passed and I was in awe with my lecturers and law itself.
Having to drive pass the fountain daily, I noticed the 101 attempts to beautify it. Almost every semester, some kind of fountain renovation commenced and just as you think it was completed, another renovation starts.
It became a joke in my faculty among my peers that we were contributing too much money to IIUM via the summonses we paid for committing small offences.
Finally, on the first day of my fourth year, as I was driving into IIUM, I saw many posters stating “Pray for MH17”, “Save Gaza” and “Pray for MH370” around the fountain.
I thought that it was thoughtful and sensitive of IIUM to place these reminders at the entrance but turned out it was only used to cover the mess caused by another major fountain renovation.
I laughed thinking it typical of IIUM and its never-ending obsession of beautifying the fountain.
Well, at least this time they did it right as it turned out grand and beautiful. This fountain had character and elements to reflect that it was not just any other fountain but it was an IIUM fountain decorated with carved silver-plated Arabic letters stating “Iqra” and Quran bookstands.
That same week, I attended Jurisprudence class and the table started to move like I was on the “Dumbo the Flying Elephant” ride in Disneyland whenever I jotted down notes.
I started thinking to myself, if only the money used for the fountain was utilised for more beneficial purposes.
I am not one who usually complains about the condition of the faculty or classrooms but seeing the grand fountain made me realise that IIUM is either bad at perspective or prioritising, or both.
My faculty has a couple of not-so-bad lecture theatres and moot courts but it also has classrooms with tables and chairs falling apart.
Students can choose between broken chairs, rusted chairs, the shakes-a-lot chair and more. Do not even get me started on the variety of tables available.
Not only that, the entire faculty is floored with the standard public toilet tiles. The toilets are, well, just picture any Malaysian public toilet and you will be able to imagine it.
There is no student lounge for us to discuss, conduct group meetings and rest in between classes. The only so-called student lounge available is the law and society area which if not for the sign, one might think is a storage room.
Moreover, the lighting in my faculty is an invitation to commit crimes at night and escape scot-free. Ironic, how IIUM is a top research university but Internet connection is often faulty or under maintenance, disrupting research, registration of subjects etc.
I am not bashing IIUM in any way. I am writing this because every time I drive along the fountain I think of the many wonders that could be done for my beloved faculty if only IIUM cared as much about the internal beauty of IIUM as it does for its entrance.
I think of how modern the fountain looked as opposed to the ancient look of my faculty. I think of how redundant and useless this fountain is compared with my faculty, which is utilised to educate future lawyers and leaders.
I also wonder if they are ever planning to upgrade my faculty. – September 20, 2014.
* Mardhiyah Siraj 

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