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Shock over students not knowing about sarees

Moderation advocate Anas Zubedy, UCSI professor Tajuddin Rasdi and PAGE head Noor Azimah Rahim are concerned over principal's rationale for initially banning sarees.

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PETALING JAYA: A principal’s explanation as to why her school had initially decided not to allow its students to wear sarees to an Aidilfitri gathering, has raised some concerns among various groups.

On Thursday, Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Cheras headmistress Maznah Latif had said the ban came following an incident last year when other students had started laughing at girls who wore sarees to the school’s Aidilfitri gathering.

“They didn’t understand that it was their traditional dress and we explained the situation but we didn’t want the same thing to happen this year,” she told FMT.

The school has since apologised and retracted the ban.

However, three prominent voices on education in the country are surprised that there are students who were not aware of the saree being the traditional attire won by Indian women.

Moderation advocate Anas Zubedy, UCSI professor Tajuddin Rasdi and Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) head Noor Azimah Rahim all agreed that if it were true that the students were ignorant about the universally-recognised Indian saree, then Malaysians should be “worried”.

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Anas stressed that it was important for schools to ensure that students are provided with avenues to get to know more about the cultures and basic traditions of other ethnic groups.

“One easy way to do this was to hire teachers of different cultural backgrounds.

“Not just Malays, Chinese, Indians but also Eurasians and indigenous people from Sabah and Sarawak.

“When we were young, that’s what we saw. We saw teachers from different cultural backgrounds,” Anas said.

He added it was “shocking” to think that there were students in Cheras who were not aware that the saree was a traditional attire for Indians.

“I’m sure our syllabus would have introduced Indians. Are you telling me the Indians portrayed in pictures in the textbooks are dressed in non-Indian clothes?

“To solve the school problem is very simple. Just make sure that in the school syllabus you have a picture of ‘Kamala Devi’, and tell them that ‘Kamala Devi’ is wearing a saree and the saree is the traditional attire of the Indians.

“Then you have exams on it. If you have exams on it then obviously they will know. Then show them that this is another person wearing cheongsam, another person wearing a baju Melayu, and another person wearing baju Arab because now the Malays also wear baju Arab,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Tajuddin said if what the principal said was true then the country has to admit that the education system has failed.

“The Razak Report says that the main aim of education is the integration of society. If it’s true that there are students who don’t know what a saree is then we are in big trouble,” he said.

Like Anas, Tajuddin related how it was when he was in school, with various cultures of different Malaysians being made well known.

“Does it take rocket science to understand something as simple as the saree? That’s something we have to look at. We have to look at education in national schools very seriously if the students cannot understand something as simple as that,” Tajuddin said.

He also took note that the school’s principal had said that some of the sarees the Indian students wore revealed their bellies and the school felt it was “not suitable” for the students to wear it.

“Most Muslim principals in this country subscribe to a certain religious moral code. They have to understand that this is their value system and they cannot impose it on others. The saree, the cheongsam, these are the traditional ways people from those cultures dress,” Tajuddin said.

“You may have your own personal code but you need to put that in check.”

azimah

Meanwhile, Azimah urged teachers to play their part in inculcating mutual respect among students and avoid taking extreme measures to solve crisis.

“We should not take extreme measures by banning some traditional wear just because a few kids make fun of it. The teachers should play their part in reasoning it to the kids as to why the saree looks like that.

“The children only need to understand about the diversities of our country,” she said, adding that the ban was unnecessary.

Anas agreed with Azimah, saying that the school couldn’t keep banning traditional attire of other cultures just because a few children started making fun of them.

“What if someone were to wear the traditional attire of the Ibans or the traditional attire of the Kadazans? If other children laugh at it, is the school going to say they can’t wear those attires anymore? It’s not practical.

“If children laugh at other children wearing sarees, then the teachers should correct them rather than force others not to wear sarees after that.”

School apologises for saree ban


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