Education Ministry’s solidarity week for Palestine in schools draws flak from civil society groups

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The Education Ministry’s circular sighted by The Borneo Post.

KUCHING (Oct 25): Seventeen civil society groups have voiced their disagreement with the Education Ministry’s instruction for all government education institutions to observe a solidarity week in support of the Palestinian cause.

In a joint statement via Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF) deputy president Peter John Jaban, they said they were deeply concerned that the event was being held without discussions on its appropriateness in the Dewan Rakyat or after consultation with parents.

“The proposed action has not been adequately considered for its long-term impact,” the statement said.

The group said a circular from the office of the ministry’s deputy director-general had listed six activities to be carried out in institutions such as schools, vocational colleges, matriculation colleges, and teachers’ education institutes nationwide from Oct 29 to Nov 3.

The activities in the circular, which was sighted by The Borneo Post, were the launch of the Palestine Solidarity Week at school level during the morning assembly; launch of a donation fund; video and song presentations that are appropriate to humanitarian issues in Palestine; spiritual activities for Muslim students such as ‘solat hajat’; special co-curricular activities related to humanitarian issues in Palestine such as song, poem, and poster creation competitions; as well as other appropriate activities.

On Facebook, the Sarawak State Education Department had announced about two days ago that it had launched the Palestine Solidarity Fund, and that it would involve all schools and other institutions under the department in the state.

The civil society groups said in the statement that they were looking at the seriousness of dragging school children into the Middle East crisis.

“We are looking at the seriousness of dragging school children into becoming part of the global, grown up adult world of protests and not subject young minds getting embroiled in this Middle East crisis.

“We caution that the six propositions can go wrong and be a cause for concern and with far-reaching repercussions,” they said.

They pointed out that parents send children to national schools, not only for academic progress but also for mental and social balance, developing, learning and interacting with other students of other races and religious faiths.

“School is a place for the instilling of moral ethics and  values that enrich a multiracial, multicultural and multireligious Malaysian society,” they said.

The group also reminded the federal government on the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on Feb 17, 1995 where under Article 29 states that state parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.

“We therefore categorically urge the Ministry of Education and the government to keep international politics (conflicts), religious disputes and war-cries out of schools and education institutions,” they said.

They felt that Malaysia should be focusing more on reviving its economy and in preparing for the fall of the Malaysian Ringgit in the wake of the Middle East conflict.

They also said the government ought to consider the well-being of Malaysian students who are studying abroad.

“Their welfare and safety cannot be jeopardised as a result of the government’s stand on the war.

“Thus, the government needs to bear in mind many Malaysians travelling abroad would be subjected to visa refusals, getting scrutinised or any sort of other dangerous and life-threatening situation,” they said.

Besides GHRF, the others in the statement are Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia (Pertama) president Dato’ RRM Krishnan, Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BoPiMaFo) president Daniel John Jambun, Independent Coalition Of Natives, Sarawak (ICON) president Bill Jugah, Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo chairman Kanul Gindol, Pertubuhan kebajikan Rumpun Dayak Sabah president Cleftus Stephen Mojingol, Persatuan Pembangunan Sosial Komuniti Sabah (BANGUN) president Jovilis Majami,  Parti Bumi Kenyalang president Voon Lee Shan, Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations president Dominique Ng, Persatuan Kebajikan Persaudaraan Sahabat Miri Sarawak secretary general Thomas Patrick, Persatuan Etnik Dayak Asal Sarawak president Valentino Ngabong, Gerempung Raban Dayak Kuching president Badindang Lai Upeng, Malaysia Chinese Educated Students Association president Tan Boon Tak, Centre for Education Excellence – Hindu Agamam Ani Malaysia chairman Arun Dorasamy, Maju founder Siti Kasim, Brig Gen Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan, and Dato Fabian Wong of Persatuan Veteran Tentera Kor Renjer/The Society for Kuching Urban Poor.