KOTA KINABALU: Sabah opposition leaders are unconvinced over the education ministry’s assurance that the enrolment of stateless children in government schools will not affect the opportunities of local children.
SAPP deputy president Edward Dagul contended that the statement by Education Minister Maszlee Malik was irresponsible at best and, at worse, showed his ignorance of the facts.
“Whatever it is, this is further proof that Malayan leaders simply open their mouths before any real fact-finding is carried out.
“If there is not enough money to reimburse Sabah for money retained by the federal government for nearly 50 years, then please do not act as if everything is just fine,” he said here today.
Replying to Ma’mun Sulaiman (Warisan-Kalabakan) in Parliament, Maszlee had said the government always ensured the provision of adequate education infrastructure and facilities to meet the needs of students in government schools, including in interior Sabah and Sarawak.
He said he was aware of the concerns by the people over this initiative but clarified that these stateless children may not possess identification documents but are children of Malaysian citizens or at least one of their parents is a Malaysian.
Dagul, who is Gabungan Sabah’s secretary-general, said it was only recently that Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said there was not enough money in federal coffers to return Sabah’s 40% revenue to the state, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
50% of Sabah schools in need of immediate repairs
Dagul said the federal government had neglected its responsibility in providing sufficient education facilities in Sabah.
He said this was a fact as state Education and Innovation Minister Dr Yusoff Yacob recently stated that more than 50% of schools in Sabah were in dire need of immediate repairs.
“If even the basic infrastructure of schools in Sabah, like buildings and classrooms, are not maintained, then what more the enrolment of stateless children, which will prove even more costly?
“Are we to believe that the anticipated surge in enrolment of students will not impact the wellbeing and education of Sabah children?” Dagul asked.
As such, the federal government should first address the infrastructure and human resource requirements of schools, such as the need for more teachers, he said.
“Then, and only then, can we discuss humanitarian considerations such as the schooling of stateless children,” he said, adding it was only fair that Sabahans be given priority.
‘Don’t rush to implement policy’
Parti Kerjasama Anak Negeri (Anak Negeri) president Henrynus Amin described the policy announced by Maszlee as controversial although the party had no serious objections to the initiative.
“Anak Negeri has no objections as long as these students are properly documented and qualify.
“We recognise the need for stateless children born to Malaysian citizens, married to foreigners, to be given proper documents and access to education to make them future assets rather than liabilities to society.
“However, Anak Negeri, as a matter of principle, has serious reservations about enrolment of stateless children, born to parents who are both foreigners, in government schools.”
“The education ministry shouldn’t rush to implement such a policy without first establishing proper criteria for qualification and the actual number of stateless children eligible for this privilege.”
Amin said in areas such as Kinabatangan, 70% of the local population is made up of foreigners. As such, stateless children born to foreigners will certainly dominate rural schools.
He also urged the Pakatan Harapan government to address the larger concern about the huge presence of a transient population in Sabah and the issuance of identity cards to foreigners through fraudulent means.