Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

Undocumented children allowed to study – Maszlee

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Dr Maszlee Malik

KUALA LUMPUR: Undocumented children are now allowed to enter Sekolah-sekolah Aliran Kebangsaan (national schools) as long as one of their parents is a Malaysian citizen, the Federal Education Ministry announced.

Its minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, said the parent must submit a confirmation letter or a certificate approved by the village chief to prove that his or her child is a Malaysian citizen.

“The parent or guardian of these children must work hard to compile the required identification documents,” Maszlee said in answering Kalabakan member of parliament Ma’mun Sulaiman at the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday.

In light of the recently-announced ‘Undocumented Children Can Enter Schools 2019’ initiative, Maszlee gave his assurance that the initiative would not affect the current opportunities and facilities enjoyed by the local children throughout the country.

“The ministry is responsible for providing an education infrastructure that is adequate in fulfilling the needs of the students of government schools.

“As of now, the ministry is actively conducting engagement sessions and discussion with the various government agencies, including the National Registration Department and the Immigration Department.

“This is to obtain feedback and opinions from the related agencies, in line with their respective policies and allocations,” he disclosed.

Maszlee explained that he would also be engaging with the Immigration Departments of Sabah, Sarawak and the other states to get more feedback on the said initiative.

He said that his ministry expects to obtain more information on the issue of education access among the undocumented children in the affected states.

In a supplementary question, Ma’mun had also asked on the case involving 700 local students who are currently ‘terapung’ (floating) as the Education Ministry had previously allowed undocumented children to register in national schools.

Maszlee stressed that under the new Malaysian government, there would no longer be any ‘floating’ students. He stressed that the government would be working hard to prevent this from happening again.

“The ministry will not neglect any schools and it will give its highest commitment to ensure that all the dilapidated schools in the state will be promptly fixed or reconstructed,” he added.

He asserted that the cooperation between the Federal Education Ministry and the Sabah Ministry of Education and Innovation would continue.

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Child sexual abuse – Minding menacing monsters

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018
THE gruesome death of 11-month-old baby girl Zara, as a result of sexual abuse, points to one thing: there are still menacing monsters among us. (NSTP Archive)

THE gruesome death of 11-month-old baby girl Zara, as a result of sexual abuse, points to one thing: there are still menacing monsters among us. There should be no free roaming space for such despicable men, say Netizens. We agree. Malaysians outside the cyberspace, too, will be outraged. We join the country in asking: what nature of men would commit such an odious crime? It is too beastly to contemplate even. Such vile beings do not just come from Malaysia; there are paedophiles from without. Many will remember Briton Richard Huckle, who was handed down 22 life sentences in November 2016 by a British court for sexually abusing 200 babies and children, most of them in Malaysia. Men of such debased minds and horrible hearts deserve either the gallows or to be locked up for the rest of their lives.
Our children must be protected from the enemy, within and without.

To do this, the government can begin by not abolishing the death penalty for such heinous crime. It is heartening to note that Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is of similar view. No Malaysian in his right mind will stop a Richard Huckle from being sent to the gallows. Twenty-two life sentences may sound more than enough but if you have only one life like all of us do, the remaining 21 are just for the realm of theory. Next, the government must listen to child rights groups’ call to make public child sexual abuse data. Worrying about such data causing alarm among the public is at best a lame reason to keep them secret. On the contrary, such secrecy lulls us into a national lethargy. Just look at the numbers revealed in Parliament, the only place such statistics freely make their appearance. On July 27, 2016, the then women, family and community development minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim told the Dewan Rakyat that 22,134 children were sexually abused from 2010 to May 2016, with more than 50 per cent of them raped. More than 1,000 were victims of unnatural sex. Malaysia was not alarmed into a riot then; it will not be now. Child rights advocates’ rationale is simple: opening up about a national problem is the first step in solving it. When people become aware of a problem, they will be better prepared to help the authorities solve it. Making the information public will also help victims of child abuse to come forward.

Child abuse experts tell us that children are usually sexually abused by someone whom they know: family members, relatives or childminders. Parents, especially mothers, must ensure that girls of vulnerable age are not left alone in the house. Or elsewhere.


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Child seat – Safety matters

Sunday, November 11th, 2018
Having child seats is an extra precaution, but one which is completely necessary.

TOWARDS the end of last month, Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced something which many had been waiting for. In fact, this column has several times pushed for it, and his announcement was welcome, indeed.

By 2020, said Loke, child car seats will be made compulsory for all private cars. Before then, he said, the ministry will conduct awareness programmes to educate the public on the importance of these seats. He went on to explain that another reason implementation would only be in 2020 was that at the moment, there were not enough suppliers, not enough stock.

Loke also wanted car seats to be sales and service tax exempt so as to make them cheaper. Malaysians, it must be said, are becoming more and more safety conscious. More and more, these days, you see couples with young children using such car seats. Kudos to them. Studies have shown that children in car seats have a better chance of surviving crashes.

But there are still those who refuse to take safety, of their children no less, into account when getting behind the wheel. Of course, when Loke’s announcement came out, there was a little bit of a hue and cry.

The most common argument against it was that it would cost a lot of money, especially for the poor and those with many children. To be fair, the prices of such items are terribly high.

In 2007, a couple expecting their first child noticed the price of such items here. It just so happened the couple flew to the United States soon after and found the same item for a third of the price in Malaysia.

Of course, not everyone can go to the US to shop, and heading there would cost more anyway. But since then, perhaps because Malaysians are becoming more safety conscious, there are more such items available and prices have come down somewhat, though they are still high. And, that is exactly what Loke and the ministry are trying to avoid.

The reason why he mentioned that there were not enough suppliers and stock is because, right now, these items are expensive.

Having more suppliers, and local manufacturers, mind you, will allow for prices to come down, at least a little. Will they be cheap enough for the poor to afford? That remains to be seen.

But the more pertinent and infinitely more important question would be this: What price your children’s safety?

Parents, generally, will risk it all for their children. They would sacrifice their lives for them. Yet there are many — perhaps through lack of knowledge or perhaps because they do not quite understand or just have not thought things through — who put their children’s lives at risk every day on Malaysian roads.

We are not talking here about the car seats, per se, but about parents who have their children on motorcycles, minus helmets. We are talking about the parents who, while their kids are jumping around in the rear, ironically sit buckled up, safe and sound.

Having child seats is an extra precaution, but one which is completely necessary. And mandatory in many countries. So it is an extra expense, but so what? Again, what price your children’s safety? Is your child’s life worth so little? Just a few hundred ringgit, perhaps?

That aside, there are other things that the government needs to ensure before such a plan is implemented. The first is quality control. There must be certain standards which need to be followed right from the materials used in the manufacture of the seats. Then there are the proper guidelines. This is easy enough to do.

There are many countries which have such laws. Just look at these countries to determine what needs to be done here. For instance, when do babies outgrow baby seats? When can they use car seats, when do kids “graduate” to booster seats? Do they face forwards or backwards? Can seats be in the front seat? These are just some of the questions which need to be answered.

And then there is also what needs to be done after car seats are made mandatory. This cannot be stressed enough in Malaysia. Enforcement is the key to making any law successful, yet sadly, enforcement always seems to be lacking in the country.


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Prizes for cleanliness, health and safety

Sunday, November 4th, 2018
Teo (fifth from left, front row) with the champions from SMK Convent Kedah.

Teo (fifth from left, front row) with the champions from SMK Convent Kedah.

THIRTY to forty percent of Malaysian children aged one to 10 are not getting the right nutrition, with one in five being overweight or obese, an independent survey conducted by Dutch Lady in 2013 found.

With over 19,000 children surveyed, the study further found that a high percentage of children are vitamin D deficient and have low levels of physical activities.

With that in mind, Dutch Lady Malaysia recently held the 3K (cleanliness, health and safety) Awards

and MyDMBS (Drink.Move.Be Strong) to educate and recognise primary and secondary school students’ efforts to improve the quality of their surroundings to boost fitness levels, while emphasising on cleanliness, health and safety.

The programme was temporarily halted in 2009 and relaunched in 2015 with Dutch Lady Malaysia as the ministry’s strategic partner.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the programme is designed to impact students’ development, schools’ physical environment, academic performances and students’ attendance.

“The 3K Awards is further strengthened with the MyDMBS campaign, an initiative by Dutch Lady Malaysia to prevent the transmission of non-communicable diseases among students, increase their awareness on the benefits of consuming nutrients like milk and encourage students to do physical activities.

“This year, 200 primary and secondary schools participated in the 3K Awards and MyDMBS campaign, with the involvement of 200,000 students and 10,000 teachers,” she said at the award ceremony on Wednesday.

Teo hoped more schools would get involved as the 3K concept is important.

Dutch Lady Malaysia managing director Tarang Gupta said the quality of entries for the programme this year was “impressive”.

“It’s a sign that overall, students’ performances and health awareness have improved,” he added.

SJK (C) Lai Meng, Kuala Lumpur and SMK Convent Kedah were crowned champions of the 3K Awards programme under the primary and secondary school category respectively.

Both schools walked home with a cash prize of RM5,000 each.

By Sandhya Menon
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World Bank: Malaysia doing well, but can do better in terms of children’s health.

Thursday, October 11th, 2018
 Firas Raad. -filepic

Firas Raad. -filepic

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): Malaysia needs to do more to deliver better outcomes in terms of children’s health and learning to boost the incomes of people and country, with returns far into the future, says the World Bank.

“Malaysia performs well but can do even better to achieve higher outcomes given its current level of income and development ambition,” said World Bank Group Representative to Malaysia and Country Manager Firas Raad at the launch of the Human Capital Index (HCI) during the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings held in Bali, Indonesia on Thursday (Oct 11) .

HCI measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age of 18, given risks of poor health and education that prevail in the country and the measures include survival, health and schooling.

According to a new release from the World Bank, Malaysia’s overall HCI score is higher than the average for upper-middle income countries and countries in the East Asian and Pacific region.

“A significant proportion of these children, however, suffer from malnutrition with one in five (21%) becoming stunted,” it said.

The education component of the HCI shows that children in Malaysia can expect to complete 12.2 years of school by age of 18, according to the news release.

World Bank said, however, when years of schooling were adjusted for quality of learning, there was only equivalent to 9.1 years, a learning gap of 3.1 years.

Raad said the World Bank was committed to working with Malaysia to make needed and transformative shifts towards better nutrition and learning outcomes among children.

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Do more to stop child abuse

Monday, October 8th, 2018
(File pix) Photo shows a boy having fun at a beach. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), only extreme child abuse cases are reported while some 90 per cent go unreported. Archive image for illustration purposes only. Reuters Photo

THERE are too many child abuse cases in Malaysia. Some 14 cases are reported daily. But many remain beyond the ken of the authorities.

Children with disabilities are especially vulnerable because they cannot do without their caregivers.

And they have little to no chance to report abuses. One child abuse case is one too many. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), only extreme child abuse cases are reported while some 90 per cent go unreported. Just in five months this year, 2,596 cases of child abuse have been reported throughout the country.

Statistics for the remaining seven months may mean more bad news. Violence does not only leave behind physical scars but also causes other impairments that are not so obvious to the eyes. Abused children find it hard to learn or socialise. They withdraw from the world and live in silent torment. What is more dangerous, victims of child abuse become dysfunctional adults and abusive parents themselves.

Pain has staying power. It remains long after the child has forgiven the abuser. The causes of child abuse are numerous and complex. Many of the reported cases point to family breakdown and substance abuse by parents.

Poverty and stress are there in the cause list, too.

Experts tell us that the best way to stop child abuse is to prevent it from happening. We agree. To do this, community heads, school authorities and religious leaders must join hands in a national effort to identify and help at-risk children.

The nature and number of child abuse cases are compelling enough for these eminent members of society to engage in advocacy against all manner of child abuse. People’s attitudes and behaviours need to be changed. Yes, there are laws to curb violence against children. But legislation can only do so much.

Advocacy must reach the hearts and minds of the people. It must help remove the root causes leading to violence. While these preventive measures are undertaken country-wide, we must not forget to put in place measures to help people respond to and monitor child abuse.

Child-friendly reporting procedures are crucial. They must locate centres of child abuse for them to be effective.

Studies show violence mainly happens at home, schools, educational institutions, community settings and care centres. It is at these locations that child-friendly helplines are needed. Reporting procedures should encourage reporting, not place hurdles along the way. A child only has precious minutes to report any abuse. All it needs is a minute for a child to be maimed. Or worse. Procedures that exist are tedious and discourage reporting. Helplines must help, not hamper. The vulnerable sometimes have to be protected from their loved ones. As the New Sunday Times had reported, we are not doing enough to to stop child abuse. We need to do more.

By NST .

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Finish studies, not marriage: UNICEF

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018


Marianne Clark with Shafie during the courtesy call yesterday

KOTA KINABALU: Children should be given the opportunity to finish secondary education rather than engaging in marriage.

Maintaining 18 as the minimum age of marriage, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative to Malaysia Marianne Clark Hattingh said legislation alone was not enough.

The move, she said, should also be backed by other measures including support and education on the effects of child marriage particularly on girls.

“(We need) to ensure young people can finish secondary education, sexual reproductive health education and also make communities and families aware of the adverse effects on child marriage – on girl child especially.

“There should also be a social protection system to target children vulnerable to dropping out of school or to child marriage so that marriage is not seen as a solution for teenage pregnancies or poverty,” she said.

She was speaking to reporters after paying a courtesy call to Chief Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal at his office here yesterday.

The issue of child marriage had been making headlines recently particularly following the Sabah Mufti Datuk Bungsu Aziz Jaafar’s proposal for the minimum age of marriage for Muslims to be lowered to 14 and 16 for girls and boys respectively.

Shafie had stated that the government will consider all expert opinions and that the Law and Native Affairs Minister, former Shariah court judge Datuk Aidi Moktar will evaluate every opinion before deciding on the final minimum age limit.

According to Marianne, it was among the issues brought to the discussion with Shafie, who was receptive to the matter.

“He was very receptive to that; he has, as you know, expressed the need to study the issue and to come up with solutions so we’re willing to support that process,” she disclosed.

Other priorities, she said, were issues of undocumented children, facilitating birth registration, access to education especially for remote and indigenous people of Sabah as well as inclusive education for children with disabilities.


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Rethink on stateless kids hailed

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Policy recommendations to address the undocumented children issue in the state is expected to be finalised and presented to the State Government by next year.

United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) representative for Malaysia, Marianne Clark Hattingh, said the policy recommendations will follow a study by Unicef together with Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) and the IDS (Institute for Development Studies Sabah) to be completed by the second quarter of 2019.

She said this when met by reporters after a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal at the PKNS building, Tuesday.

She said during the meeting, Shafie had expressed his interest and willingness to work together with the relevant agencies to come up with a feasible solution.

Hattingh said these recommendations was just some of the things discussed on issues that affected women and children in the State.

“It is very encouraging and the UN country team with Unicef is now conducting a study to get a better understanding of the complex issue so they would to be able to come up with policy recommendations as well as developing a platform for innovative solutions to address the issue.

“We are also looking at another study looking at poverty and looking at Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan mirroring the study we did in Kuala Lumpur on child poverty. So that would complement the findings of the other study.”

“We are glad that this issue is finally being looked at from a different angle, and that the state government is willing to really try and solve the problem,” she said.

“We also discussing about facilitating registration of the children especially in remote indigenous communities and making education more accessible to young people in the state and promoting inclusive education for children with disabilities. Unicef has been working in Sabah to find solutions to these issues and we are looking forward to supporting the state government in addressing this and moving forward as well together with the other UN agencies looking for economic opportunities and skills training for young people to make them employable.”

When asked was there any noticeable improvement on the status of stateless children here, Hattingh replied there was none yet but was encouraged by the chief minister’s willingness to address the issue where it is a human rights and development issue and should not just be viewed as a security issue.

“Before it was seen purely as a security issue and this stopped progress. Now it is seen as a development issue and there is willingness to address from it from a human rights perspective as well as it is also an economic issue as well as these children don’t have access to basic education or health care which perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

“Now there is an opportunity to make a difference and give these children the opportunity to develop to their full potential.” Hattingh said a big step would be to recognise the existing alternative learning centres and if they can be legalised then there would be more support towards them and improve the quality of education they provide.

On the issue of child marriage in Malaysia, Hattingh said Unicef emphasises that 18 should be the minimum age for marriage without exception.

She said legislation alone was not enough and it needs to be accompanied by other measures such as support to ensure that young people can finish their secondary education.

Hattingh said there should be sexual reproductive health education also and making communities and families aware of the adverse effects of child marriage on a girl child especially and ensuring there is a social protection system to target children who are vulnerable, say of dropping out of school or child marriage and giving them opportunities so marriage is not a solution for teenage pregnancies or poverty.

by Neil Chan.

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Lower marital age regressive, exploitative

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Law Society (SLS) categorically opposes the recent statement by the Sabah Mufti Datuk Bungsu @ Aziz Jaafar that the marriageable age of Muslims in Sabah be lowered to 14 for girls and 16 for boys.

Such a proposal is regressive, exploitative, and destructive to the future of a child, it said in a statement Wednesday.

“Malaysia, having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 17th February 1995 (CRC), is obliged to take all available measures to make sure that children are protected, and their rights are respected and upheld. The CRC is an international treaty that recognises the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of eighteen years old. The CRC reflects the new vision of a child, that they are neither the property of their parents nor are they the helpless objects of charity.”

“They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. In this respect children have rights to physical protection, food, education, and health care which are essential and appropriate for their development into adulthood. They should not be getting married and having babies when they themselves are juveniles and are still vulnerable, and in need of physical, mental, and emotional nurturing.”

Dominic Ghani, the Chairman of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the SLS stated, “We believe and acknowledge that child marriages are not merely confined to the Muslim community but occur in the native communities as well.

Both the Islamic authorities and native customary heads would be wise to ensure that the respective religious texts / customary rights are to be progressively interpreted and to exercise their discretion cautiously until there is legislative intervention to ensure a minimum age of 18.”

“Only those beneficial practices which are in the best interest of all segments of humanity should be encouraged and observed. We therefore believe that the issue of child marriages involves a spectrum of interplay between a responsible government, removal of archaic policies detrimental to society at large and acceptance of the moral issues impacting or affecting upon our youths today.”

He further stated that “child marriages were a practice during the medieval era or dark ages (between the 5th and 15th century) and had existed then partly due to the fact that the life expectancy of an individual was generally less than 40 years of age due to war, disease, and famine. Now children should be given the freedom of choice and the right to decide who they want to marry when they reach the age of maturity.”

“Legally speaking, if they are not allowed to work, drive, or vote at 14, they should not be allowed to get married too.”

In response to the suggestion that a marriage is required to legitimise children born out of wedlock, the SLS is of the view that more emphasis needs to be placed on reproductive education and family planning as well advocating the health risks associated with having children below the age of 18.

The SLS therefore welcomes the recent statement by the Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Dr. Wan Ismail that the Federal Government “will raise the

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System to register stateless kids

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Keningau: A system will be put in place to address the issue of late registration of births of children from mixed marriages where one parent is a Malaysian, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

He said a realistic and comprehensive approach is needed to not only resolve the problem but also to make sure those children would not be left out in securing education in this country.

“Young kids cannot go to school without proper identification documents. We are concerned for their wellbeing,” he told reporters when met after a “Day with the Chief Minister” programme, here, Friday.

Mohd Shafie said there is also a need to streamline regulations whereby either parent who is a local can register the births of their children.

“We must have a system, for example, if one of the parents is a local (while the parent with a different nationality is absent in the family), we must consider (the local parent to register the children’s birth).

“But, under the law, only the wife is considered. If the husband is a local and the wife is not around, then he can’t get it (register children’s birth),” he said.

He said there is a genuine concern about such parents who are unable to register their children to obtain MyKad and these children would grow up without proper documentation and would, thus, be deprived of secondary education through their stateless status.

“These people are Sabahans. We need to resolve their problems. A system must be in place for them to get their documents as soon as possible and not wait until they are grown up,” he said.

He said there were problems of local mothers left with children through illegal marriages with foreigners, and also local men left with children from their illegal marriage with foreigners.

On a proposal by District Officer Yusop Osman for a base to be set up here as it is an entry point for people from Indonesia and Brunei, Shafie said the State Government is looking into it.

He said it would reduce the burden on security surveillance. There are 255 policemen in Keningau, Nabawan, Tambunan and Sook.

“The State Government will look into our capabilities as there are many areas that need (to improve) its security, especially the East Coast that is facing problems,” said Shafie, who is also Chairman of Sabah Security Committee.

“We are also asking for security to be tightened in the form of deterrence at the borders or the placement of equipment to curb potential threats.”

Shafie said the programme, the second to be held since the Parti Warisan Sabah-led government took office, was meant for officials to go to the ground and understand the needs of the people.

Shafie, who is making his first official visit to the interior since becoming Chief Minister, also looked at local issues, including land matters and requests for low cost homes, among other issues.

“This is a new government and, therefore, I urge top officials, government agencies and departments to be efficient and effective in reaching out to and assisting the people.

“At the same time, I would also urge the people to change their mindsets and attitudes,” he said, referring to embracing technology to boost agricultural productivity.

In a related matter, mobile courts are available to assist locals obtain identity documents and late birth certificate registration from the National Registration Department.

Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, who accompanied his judicial officers on the Mobile Court in Keningau, told reporters that the mobile court has assisted some 50,000 rural Sabahans obtain their ICs and birth certificates from the NRD since 2008.

“If we don’t do this, they will become stateless. And it would be sad if they go to hospitals and have to pay like foreigners when they are also Malaysians,” he said.

He said that if marriages were legally done, it could be handled by NRD, but if it’s not and involves children with a single parent, it has to be handled by the court.

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