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NGOs express concern over Ministry of Education's call for solidarity week in schools



27 October 2023

By Wartawan Nabalu News


KOTA KINABALU: A coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Sabah and Sarawak has raised concerns regarding a recent notice issued by the Ministry of Education on October 21, 2023.


The notice from the Office of the Deputy Director-General of Education was for all schools to demonstrate and observe a solidarity week in support of Palestinians' cause and singles out six proposed activities to be carried out in all schools.


In a joint Statement, the 17 NGOs expressed their concern over this controversial event, as it was introduced through a simple administrative ruling without proper discussions in the Dewan Rakyat or consultation with parents.


They believed that the potential long-term impact of this initiative has not been adequately considered.


The NGOs emphasises the seriousness of involving school children in the complex world of global protests, cautioning against exposing young minds to the Middle East crisis. They believe that the proposed activities may have unintended consequences and far-reaching repercussions.


"We caution that the six propositions can go wrong and be a cause for concern and with far-reaching repercussion.


We have seen before how a particular school in Malaysia, very recently, had made its young students to stomp on an Israeli flag. Social media had gone viral on that posting causing alarm among citizens. Many netizens criticised this action and rightly held that the school is sowing hatred in these young, impressionable minds," their statement read.


According to them, parents send their children to National type schools, not only for academic progress but also for mental and social balance, developing, learning and interacting with other pupils 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 reminded the Government of Malaysia on the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 17th February 1995 and under Article 29, which states:


"States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:


(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;


(d) 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."


The NGOs and netizens raised their concerns that the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is giving the impression of angling the Israel-Hamas war also as a religious perspective as well as taking political and territorial sides.


"The government has clearly taken sides and joined various quarters globally hinting anti-semitism. Malaysia has a long track record, known globally, as a peace loving and peace keeping nation."


"We should stand up for peace and demand for the halting of all civilian casualties and not spike the crisis further by siding one nation state while condemning another with racist undertones. Malaysia should focus more on reviving the economic crisis and the fall of Malaysian Ringgit in the wake of this Middle East war.


"We fear the misalignment of sentiments, condemnation, hatred and prejudices being championed by zealous teachers who are led to believe this is a religious war and that anti semitism is therefore justified. We cannot poison our young children's minds. "


The NGOs highlight the need for the government to consider the potential implications for Malaysians traveling abroad, including the possibility of visa refusals, increased scrutiny, and exposure to life-threatening situations. They express concerns about the well-being of Malaysian citizens residing or traveling in foreign countries as tensions continue to escalate.


"Let us stop getting our children and the people of Malaysia baited to the problems that are growing larger by the day."


This statement is supported by Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF) Deputy President- Peter John Jaban, Dato' RRM Krishnan President Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia (PERTAMA), Daniel John Jambun President Borneo's Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BoPiMaFo) and Bill Jugah, President, ICON - Independent Coalition Of Natives, Sarawak. Kanul Gindol Chairman Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo, Cleftus Stephen Mojingol President Pertubuhan kebajikan Rumpun Dayak Sabah, Jovilis Majami President Persatuan pembangunan sosial komunity Sabah (BANGUN) and Voon Lee Shan President party Bumi Kenyalang Sarawak as well as Dominique Ng, President, Sarawak Association for People's Aspirations also supported the statement. Other supporting NGOs Include Thomas Patrick. Sec General Persatuan Kebajikan Persaudaraan Sahabat Miri Sarawak, Valentino Ngabong, President Persatuan Etnik Dayak Asal Sarawak, Badindang Lai Upeng (President) Gerempung Raban Dayak Kuching, Tan Boon Tak (President) Malaysia Chinese Educated Students Association), Arun Dorasamy (Chairman- Centre for Education Excellence - Hindu Agamam Ani Msia) and Siti Kasim - Founder MAJU as well asBrig Gen Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan and Dato Fabian Wong Persatuan Veteran Tentera Kor Renjer/The Society for Kuching Urban Poor.

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