PETALING JAYA: A children’s welfare organisation has criticised the actions of a school in Negeri Sembilan which prevented a Year One child from attending class as she did not possess a passport.
The Suriana Welfare Society, which comprises charitable and welfare organisations, said the school had defied the recent instructions given by the education minister to allow children without citizenship to attend school.
“If the minister’s instructions were taken into account and taken seriously, these children would not be in this current situation,” said the organisation’s leader, Scott J Wong.
On Jan 6, Education Minister Mahdzir Khalid said children without citizenship could attend school even though their citizenship applications were still being processed.
However, in the first week of school, a seven-year-old girl in Seremban was barred from attending based on a new policy by the Immigration Department, as she did not have a passport.
Her family had adopted her legally and was awaiting approval for the citizenship application.
Wong questioned the actions of the immigration officials who forbade children from going to school.
“They have no right. It should be in the hands of the education ministry because only they can allow children to attend school without citizenship.
“On what basis did they interfere in this matter?”
Wong said formal education for children without citizenship was important to prevent them from becoming involved in social ills and to foster a sense of loyalty to the country.
“They are innocent. Sometimes it is the parents that abandon their children, but what is the fault of these children?” he asked.
It is believed that some 300,000 children are currently stateless but not allowed to attend school.
Wong said the situation showed that Malaysia was not complying with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which it had signed.
“If Malaysia complies with the agreement reached in the convention, there will be no problem for these 300,000 children.”
Article 28 of the convention states that the involved country should recognise the rights of children to education.