Proposal to amend Act so tahfiz schools are registered

zahid-tahfizPUTRAJAYA: A proposal has been put forward for the Education Act 1996 (Act 550) to be amended to allow the registration of private Islamic education institutions, including private tahfiz schools, if the various state governments are in agreement to it.

The recommendation was a proactive measure to resolve issues related to tahfiz schools, including security.

The management of such schools is currently under the jurisdiction of the state governments.

The recommendation, which was submitted at the high-level committee (HLC) meeting of the Tahfiz Schools Special Task Force, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi here today, seeks to improve Act 550 for better enforcement of such centres.

“I hope the state governments agree to this for the common good,” said Zahid, who is also home minister, to reporters after the meeting at Perdana Putra today.

“We are concerned about this problem, although it is under the state governments.

“The federal government is concerned because we don’t want to see indifference in the (administration of) tahfiz schools,” he also said.

The meeting, which saw the submissions of several recommendations on the issue of tahfiz schools, was also attended by seven ministers, including Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom as well as Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.

“We will engage the state governments first before amending the act,” he said, adding that Jamil Khir had been empowered with the job of discussing the proposal with them.

Zahid said the recommendations of the HLC would be submitted at a meeting of the National Council for Islamic Affairs (MKI), chaired by Prime Minister Najib Razak, and attended by state government representatives, before being tabled at the cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Currently, he said there were 941 private tahfiz schools registered with Persatuan Madrasah Tahfiz Al-Quran Malaysia, involving 9,470 teachers and 150,000 students.

However, he said only 612 schools were registered with the education ministry and state government authorities, as the others feared their schools would be taken over by other quarters if they registered.

“The registration of the tahfiz schools will be coordinated between the state governments and the federal government so the issue of taking over and duplication of power between the two parties will not arise,” he said.

In the meantime, Zahid said there was a proposal that the federal and state governments be jointly responsible for coordinating the administration of tahfiz schools and channelling financial aid to them, if necessary.

Also recommended was a criteria framework for the management of tahfiz schools nationwide, with standard specifications to be decided by the local authorities (PBT), Fire and Rescue Department (JBPM) and related agencies.

It was also suggested that the premises of tahfiz centres, orphanages, old folks’ homes and kindergartens comply with safety standards, Zahid said, adding, “We will also encourage the setting up of fire and rescue volunteer teams at these premises.”

In addition, he said the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), local authorities, fire brigade and the Malaysian Association of Facility Management would conduct a large-scale safety awareness campaign at all the premises concerned.

The special task force was set up to coordinate the safety of tahfiz schools following a deadly fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday in which 23 died, with 21 of them being students.

Zahid said since 1989, 39 fires had broken out at tahfiz schools, killing 56 people, 54 of them students.

He said the HLC meeting also agreed to set up a permanent coordinating committee to monitor the management of People’s Religious Schools (SAR), tahfiz schools and “religious huts (pondok)” nationwide, including improving existing safety standards.

Zahid said the Islamic Religious Development Department (Jakim) and the secretariat for the National Council for Islamic Affairs, would act as the secretariat for the committee.