Religious segregation: ‘Corrective’ action ordered at Sabah school

Bernama pic.

PETALING JAYA: Sabah education officials are to visit a secondary school in Kota Kinabalu tomorrow (Monday) for “corrective action” on segregation of pupils by religion.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching told FMT that the ministry had requested that the state education department take action to “correct” the segregation of Muslim and non-Muslims, and urged school administrators to be more sensitive and careful in running their schools.

It was reported yesterday that Form One students at the secondary school had been placed in classes according to their religion. An online petition against the school’s decision has collected more than 12,300 signatures in the three days since it was opened.

Pupils were segregated in January, with four classes reserved for non-Muslim students and two more for Muslim students in an arrangement supposed to be in place for the next three years.

Teo said segregation of students by religion was only acceptable for Islamic and Moral classes, and even then, only for the purpose of easing the study process.

“There is the bigger agenda of unity in our schooling system,” she said.

Parent’s group up in arms

A parents’ association group has called for proper investigation into the matter.

“There must be seriousness in the Ministry of Education and amongst our religious and political leaders to tackle such issues, so they do not escalate into hatefulness, bigotry and extremist behaviour,” said Tunku Munawirah Putra of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia.

Tunku Munawirah urged teachers to understand that their actions may cause disunity and breed intolerance. “Narrow understanding of race and religion can be dangerous. It can lead to bigotry, hatred and worse, criminal activity.”

The school’s segregation action was also likened by an academician as “killing a fly with a sledgehammer”.

Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia, who has conducted research into religious tolerance, said many studies had shown that more interaction across ethnic and religious lines would make people more tolerant.

Sabah’s assistant minister of education and innovation, Jenifer Lasimbang, said the state education department would issue a statement and a report would be shared by its director.