‘If there is the will, there is the way’


’Allow non-citizen children attend government schools in Sarawak’. — Bernama photo

ONE nine-year-old child was told to discontinue her lessons from a government school in Lawas because she had no papers to prove her Malaysian citizenship. Earlier, she had applied for the Malaysian citizenship, but the family was told that the application would take as long as six years to process.

Even then, there’s no guarantee that the application would be a success. By then, Jeany would be 15 years old. Assuming that her application would be eventually approved, happy, happy – but she would have lost a crucial period in her personal development as an ordinary child.

What if she fails in her application?

In this century where modern communication technology is the norm, there is no reason at all why the approval/rejection cannot be given within a reasonably short time. I thought this bureaucratic delay was the thing of the past.

Apparently, not.

It’s amazing that while the approval/rejection of Jeany’s application for citizenship will take years to consider, it took only a few minutes for the directive for her to leave school to be carried out.

By the way, I would still like to know where the directive came from.

Kuala Lumpur? Kuching? Miri? Can a child be ordered out of school by a simple text message?

The whole problem of the non-citizens of school age getting into government-funded schools in Malaysia boils down to the federal government’s willingness to solve it.

If policies are made by man, policies can also be unmade by man. If the present laws are unjust or inhumane, it is for man to address that injustice or produce a humane policy instead.

Religious people will tell you that the law is made for man and not man for the law.

Malaysia is a signatory to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) effective from Sept 2, 1990. Many constitutional lawyers think that the rights of the child include also a child’s right to education.

If so, why don’t we abide by the relevant provision of that Convention?

Besides, there are our own internal policies covering the education of all children in the country, regardless of their citizenship status.

For further information, may I refer to the article written by Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS, which was published by The Borneo Post on March 3?

I’m reproducing part of it:

“Listed is a summary of national polices that support education for all:

1. The National Education Policy (2017, Page 22) states that primary education is compulsory for all children aged 6 to 12 years, and this includes non-citizens.

2. The Zero Reject Policy launched in 2018 was aimed to ensure that all children in the country, will have access to education.

3. In May, our (then) Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin reiterated in a Teachers’ Day speech that the government pledges to ensure that no student in Malaysia will be denied a proper, including undocumented children.”

Does anybody NOT understand this?

‘Sudah terang lagi bersuluh’ (clear as crystal) — Why are ‘the authorities’ side-stepping their own National Education Policy?

According to the statistics quoted by the ‘Good Doctor’, there are some 300,000 children in Malaysia who do not go to school because they are not the citizens of the country. They include children of the refugees, of illegal migrants, or of those Malaysian citizens who are married to non-citizens.

Think of it – today, it is 300,000 youngsters roaming the streets. Soon, they will be part of the urban unemployed, unemployable, and very likely, getting into bad company!

How many of those stateless children are found in Sarawak, can anyone enlighten us?

Subject to correction, here, we are mainly concerned with the children of mixed marriages – father Malaysian, mother Indonesian, or vice versa.

More often than not, the parents belong to the same ethnic group, different only in terms of nationality. Marriages taking place in the rural areas are not registered on time with the Registrar of Marriages; the community elder’s sanction is considered enough, according to traditional law. None of this is the fault of the children born out of the marriage.

Right move

Via his press statement on Thursday (The Borneo Post – March 3, 2022), the Sarawak’s Minister of Education, Innovation and Talent Development Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn, implored his federal government’s counterpart not to deny stateless kids an education over citizenship status.

A credit to the state minister in charge of education matters in Sarawak for speaking up in public! At the time of writing, (there’s still) deafening silence from Kuala Lumpur.

Let’s give the legislators time to jointly take action to solve ALL outstanding cases in Sarawak including that of Jeany’s citizenship.

Is political ideology that is in the way? What a shoddy excuse to deny children their basic rights!

The relevant political parties are in the ruling coalition now, anyway. Who else in the country can solve this kind of problem, other than the government of the day through the relevant ministries?

If for whatever reason the federal government is ‘unable’ to solve the citizenship problem of children born in Sarawak soon, then it is high time for the state government to demand a delegation of powers.

Let the state handle and solve the outstanding cases as fast as possible. That must be one of the direct results of Sarawak getting more autonomy!

Sarawak is now an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia. What better synergy can there be produced than two powerful statesmen working hand in hand, two cool heads put together!

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