7 MAY 2021
The Child Rights Coalition Malaysia (CRCM) and Education Cluster of CSO Platform for Reform (EDPlatform) are disturbed by the recent reports in the media on the state and development of the education system in Malaysia pertaining to the following:
Basic human rights violation of students
The incidents of menstrual spot checks in schools and the moral policing of Muslim female students are a violation of the dignity of the child, their right to protection under Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which refers to the child’s right to privacy.
Such actions create fear in students and may result in trauma that affects their safety and ability to learn in school. This can have dire effects on their future.
We have also noted another incident with grave concern that victim-blaming mindset of school teachers and state authorities where “rape talk” is dismissed as a joke.
“Rape talk” falls within the ambit of “sexual communication with a child” as defined by section 11 of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, which carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.
“Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of any person” is further an offence under section 509 of the Penal Code.
We regret that the “rape talk” has been trivialised by the Ministry of Education and persons in governmental positions, including the police.
No person should be allowed to make rape threats or rape jokes to anyone, let alone a child. Threats of this nature levelled at children are a violation and detrimental to the child.
These incidents reflect serious fundamental challenges in our education system in respecting the basic human rights to privacy and dignity of a school going child.
The school must be seen as a safe place to prepare students for a better future. Students must be able to confide in their prefects, teachers, heads of school on any abuses they might face from bullying, body shaming, sexual harassment, discrimination, caning and other violations affecting the dignity of the child.
School teachers are the custodians of our children when they are in school. The ministry is entrusted with ensuring that the best interests of children are safeguarded, and it plays a large role in the way they are moulded and shaped for the future.
Abolition of UPSR and PT3 school examinations
While there are mixed reactions on either to abolish or maintain UPSR and PT3, the sudden abolishment of UPSR and cancellation of PT3 examinations further reveals the lack of visionary planning and clear direction on the part of the ministry, which has not clearly indicated a holistic alternative assessment.
The current alternative assessment in trial – the National Examinations and School-based Assessments or Pentaksiran Berasaskan Sekolah (PBS) – remains controversial requiring much tweaking before it is implemented.
Uncertainties on schools re-opening and closing
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, arbitrary decisions have been made by the ministry on the closing and reopening of schools, with little or no consultation with stakeholders.
The long period of almost half a year lockdown from schools due to Covid-19 and the uncertainties have invariably caused anxiety and hardship to students and their families.
Early this year, schools were reopened although children under the age of 18 have yet to be vaccinated.
Since schools re-opened, Covid-19 cases among school children have been growing exponentially. It is noted that schools have adhered to strict SOP, the spike of cases in schools may have transmitted outside the schools.
Yet, the causes for this rise have not been thoroughly investigated nor clearly communicated with stakeholders and the schools were forced into closure again.
Distortion of history in school textbooks
Malaysian history must reflect the people’s struggles in the making of Malaysia (be they the migrant community, minority, majority or indigenous peoples of Malaysia).
We urge the ministry to conduct a professional review of the textbooks so that the younger generation learn from the true Malaysian history and the rich diversity of our nation.
Our history textbooks should also reflect and include various significant world civilisations to instil a global perspective.
In light of the above incidents, CRCM and the Ed-Platform call for the following:
Teachers must be sensitised and trained in child rights to raise their awareness and professionalism as responsible protectors of children thus enabling schools to be a safe space.
Teachers who have violated the dignity of their students to be made accountable for their actions.
The ministry must view the above incidents as critical signs of an urgent need to review and re-evaluate all aspects of our education system.
The government must institute reforms, with substantive stakeholder consultation to put the education system in the hands of professional educators while it plays the role of providing and facilitating resources.
The ministry must uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in all aspects and all schools to comply fully with the Safe School Policy and/or the Child Protection Policy.
Child Rights Coalition Malaysia
Education Cluster of CSO Platform for Reform
*AWAM is a member organisation of CSO Platform for Reform.