Stateless children in schools: Teo slams passport requirement

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PETALING JAYA: DAP’s Teo Nie Ching has critised a move by the immigration department to restrict enrolment in government schools for stateless children.

The Kulai MP cited a letter issued by the immigration department on Dec 28, imposing a new condition requiring stateless children to produce a passport for admission into schools.

“Stateless children who have successfully enrolled in government schools last year are now required to produce their passport for admission,” she said, adding that this was wrong as the education ministry has its own guidelines for school admission.

Teo cited the “Peraturan-Peraturan Pendidikan (Penerimaan Masuk Murid Ke Sekolah, Penyimpanan Daftar dan Syarat Bagi Pengekalan Murid Belajar di Sekolah) 1988” which came into force since July 23, 1998, which states that a non-citizen can enroll in government schools.

“Section 5(1) lists the categories under which a non-citizen child could be enrolled.

“Children of foreign staff at embassies and high commissions; children of parents who are not citizens but are working legally in the country; children of couples with Malaysian permanent residency (PR) status; and foreign students from a country with a mutual agreement on student exchange with the Malaysian government.

“In other words, the possession of passport is never a pre-condition for admission to a government school,” Teo said.

“With even children of Malaysian PRs being allowed to enroll in government schools, there are no reasons why children of Malaysia citizens should be discriminated.”

She also questioned the education ministry for allowing the immigration department to dictate the terms and conditions for school admission of stateless children.

“Shouldn’t the power to decide the terms and conditions for school admission in government schools be vested solely in the education ministry?”

Teo highlighted that the right to education has been recognised as a human right in a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“The Covenant recognises a right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, in particular by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.

“As of 2016, 164 states were parties to the Covenant. Sadly, Malaysia is not one of them,” she said.

According to Teo, there are close to 300,000 stateless children in Malaysia, with many of them being children of Malaysian citizens.

“Therefore, the education ministry should never allow the possession of passport as one of the prerequisites for school admission, or many stateless children will be denied such a basic right.”