KUALA LUMPUR: The government is looking at tabling a bill to ensure that all tahfiz schools are categorised as religious schools to ensure safety and legalise all such centres throughout the country.
Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh said all tahfiz and religious schools must be registered and follow state rules.
“But tahfiz schools are not included as religious schools. This is the loophole.
“With this enactment, we can focus on the registration of tahfiz schools as religious schools,” she said in the Dewan Rakyat today.
She also said Putrajaya would use the carrot and stick approach where the RM50 million allocated for religious schools under Budget 2019 would only be given to those who registered their centres.
“We have urged local authorities to take action on those operating illegally as legalising premises comes under them.
“Religious bodies and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health have also started safety awareness efforts for all tahfiz schools,” she said.
In September last year, a deadly fire broke out at a tahfiz school in Kampung Datuk Keramat here. Twenty-three people died, two of whom were wardens at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah school.
The incident has been described as the country’s worst fire disaster in the past 20 years.
Fahmi Fadzil (PH-Lembah Pantai) raised concerns over sexual abuse cases at such schools, which Fuziah said would also be addressed in the bill.
She also urged parents to constantly check on their children and the safety of the premises.
“If there are sexual abuse complaints, some parents do not get involved,” she added.
However, Takiyuddin Hassan (PAS-Kota Bharu) said tahfiz schools were often given a bad rep despite producing lawyers, pilots and doctors.
He said raising issues of safety and sexual abuse gave a poor impression of tahfiz schools.
He also said he hoped Putrajaya would not make it hard for unlicensed tahfiz centres to be issued licences.
Fuziah said tahfiz schools had succeeded in producing highly disciplined students, adding that the government wanted to raise the standards at such centres.
“Students can choose either a professional or religious path. That is why we are raising the standard to higher levels which includes the quality of teachers.”