Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

Cops to probe school gangsterism after videos of rowdy youths go viral.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

SHAH ALAM: Rampant gangsterism in schools is back in the limelight with the arrest of 13 schoolboys after a commotion outside a school in Klang.

Selangor police have set up a task force to investigate gangland activities in schools after videos of a group of motorcyclists creating a ruckus outside the school in Taman Sri Andalas went viral.

Selangor CID chief Senior Asst Comm Fadzil Ahmat said although the motive for the commotion was still being probed, the 13 schoolboys and five others had been remanded.

“The 13 students arrested were from schools in the area, while the five other youths were working as mechanics and security guards.

“We have remanded them for four days to assist in investigations,” he told reporters at the Selangor police headquarters here.

He said as soon as the video went viral, a police report was lodged and the task force was formed.

“Together with Bukit Aman CID, we launched a series of operations on Thursday night and arrested the youths, aged between 16 and 25.

“We are investigating the case under Section 52 of the Societies Act 1966 for using a triad ritual,” he said.

The arrests came after two videos of motorcyclists causing a commotion outside the school went viral on Thursday night.

In the first video clip, the group is seen shouting and revving motorcycle engines outside the school.

They are also seen holding up banners, one of which bears the letter “24”, “TD4” and a black swastika.

One youth swings firecrackers around as frightened schoolchildren scurry away.

The second video starts with a close-up of a cake with the words “SMK Sri Andalas”, “24” and “Apache” written on it.

At least one of the motorcyclists in this clip is seen wearing a school uniform. The location and time of the 24-second footage appear to be the same as the first.

Authorities have been fighting gangsterism in schools for years.

In 2010, The Star reported about drunken, foul-mouthed schoolboys attacking others and molesting girls in a school at Rawang.

The schoolboys also brazenly painted the school walls with their gang numbers. However, the walls have since been painted over and the gang activities have gone quiet.

At the time, teachers, parents and residents had opted to keep quiet as they were afraid of what these teenagers could do to them.

Molestation was said to be rampant, but almost all the cases went unreported as victims feared more severe “repercussions’’.

The matter came to light after a police report was lodged by several girls over the rape of a 14-year-old girl at their school premises.

The girl had been repeatedly raped by some of her classmates in various locations of the school over a three-week period.

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Fire safety: One child dies every two weeks from fire-related injuries

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: WITH a reported 265,000 childhood deaths every year worldwide caused by fire-related incidents, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorised burns as a global public health problem.

WHO also reported that more than half the deaths take place in Southeast Asia, with most of the cases happening in low- and middle-income countries. Non-fatal burn injuries are a leading cause of morbidity, with fire-related injuries occurring mainly in the home and workplace.

In Malaysia, statistics have shown that a child dies every two weeks from fire and burn injuries, and 54 per cent of respondents in a survey have reported incidents of burns and scalds at home.

With the level of fire safety awareness still wanting, the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry engaged Safe Kids Malaysia Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) to conduct a pilot study on fire safety involving 640 parents of children aged between 7 and 12 years.

The study, conducted last year, discovered that only one in three parents consistently taught their kids about fire safety and only 11 per cent of parents reported that schools frequently taught fire safety education.

It also found out that 6.4 per cent of parents reported a fire in their homes in the past two years.

Based on the study, a pilot project, Safe Kids At Home: Preventing Fire and Burns, was rolled out in March in nine primary schools in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.

The schools are SK Seri Delima, SK Bandar Baru Sentul, SK Sentul 1, SK Kiaramas, SJK (T) Segambut, SJK (T) Fletcher, SJK (T) Sentul, SJK (C) Chung Kwok and SJK (C) Sentul Pasar.

The six-month project, in partnership with the Fire and Rescue Department, is expected to benefit some 6,000 students by the time it is completed.

Deputy Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique said the lack of awareness of the importance of fire safety among Malaysian children was alarming.

“In 2016, the Fire and Rescue Department conducted 5,251 fire safety awareness talks and 6,089 fire drills to educate society on the importance of this matter,” she said.

The initiatives, she said, would be followed by more programmes by the Fire and Rescue Department to keep children safe from preventable injuries, namely burns and fire.

Malaysia is the first country in Southeast Asia selected for the programme after China and India.

“I hope the programme, which started in Sentul, will eventually be scaled up and reach more children in more areas over time.

“One day, we will cover the entire nation,” she said.

Safe Kids Malaysia UPM executive director Associate Professor Dr Kulanthayan K.C. Mani hoped more children would benefit from the programme in the future.

“There is clearly a need to educate children and encourage more parents to reinforce key safety messages at home.

“Parents may expect their kids to be educated on fire safety awareness in school, but that may not always be the case,” he said.

“Based on the study, we found out that there is a critical need for fire and burn education for children,” he told the New Sunday Times.

The programme, he said, went specifically into the aspect of education in fire and burns prevention for children.

According to WHO, burns were the 11th leading cause of death of children aged 1 to 9, and were also the fifth most common cause of non-fatal childhood injuries. While a major risk was improper adult supervision, a considerable number of burn injuries in children resulted from child maltreatment.

Another risk factor for burns was the socio-economic aspect, namely poverty, overcrowding and lack of proper safety measures.

Kulanthayan said children from low- and middle-income families were more susceptible to burn injuries due to lack of space.

“People in this socio-economic group are typically confined to a tight living space, where the kitchen is located quite close to other parts of the house.

“In some cases, children even end up playing in the kitchen, where they have access to a water heater, iron, rice cooker and other kitchenware.”

For the study, Kulanthayan led a team of experts to conduct the first-ever fire and burn survey in the country to measure the level of awareness of preventable burn injuries and deaths among children.

The study found out that 51 per cent of parents were worried that their children were likely to suffer from a burn or scald at home than any other injury.

“Parents play a pivotal role in preventing fire and burn injuries at home,” he said.

The top five most common causes of burn injuries at home, he said, included touching a hot utensil (24.4 per cent), hot iron (21.7 per cent), hot water heater (17.2 per cent), having close contact with motorcycle exhaust pipes (16.7 per cent) and burning firecrackers (14.4 per cent).

“A child touching a hot wok in the kitchen stove may only be treated for a mild injury.

“However, the child is susceptible to second- or third-degree burns when the wok overturns and spills its hot content,” he said.


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Educating children on fire and burn safety

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Representatives of Honeywell, Safe Kids Malaysia and Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia with students from schools participating in the Safe Kids at Home programme.

LAUNCH: The World Health Organisation’s Global Burden of Disease estimates that 265,000 childhood deaths from fire-related burns occur each year, with a majority of them happening in low- and middle-income countries.

More than half the deaths take place in the Southeast Asian region, including in Malaysia, where it is reported that one child dies every two weeks due to fires or other burns.

Recognising the need to create awareness of this global public health issue, Safe Kids Malaysia (a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the lives of children in Malaysia) has launched the ‘Safe Kids at Home’ educational programme, designed to help prevent deaths by fires and burns among children aged 7 to 12 years old.

Together in partnership with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Safe Kids Worldwide and Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the programme was developed based on the findings of a 2016 survey conducted by Safe Kids Malaysia and UPM titled How Safe is Your Home? Protecting Children from Fire, Burns and Scalds in Kuala Lumpur.

At the release of the research findings, executive director of Safe Kids Malaysia UPM, Associate Professor Dr Kulanthayan KC Mani, said: “The research has identified a critical need for fire and burn education for children, and we look forward to starting to implement the Safe Kids at Home programme in nine schools in Sentul,

Kuala Lumpur.”

Key research findings were:

• More than half of the parents (54 per cent) reported that their children had suffered one form of a burn or scald injury in the past two years

• 51 per cent of parents are worried that their children are more likely to suffer a burn or scald than any other injury

• Only 1 in 3 parents consistently teach their kids about fire safety

• 11 per cent of parents reported that schools frequently teach fire safety education

• More than 80 per cent of parents stated that they use toothpaste as remedy, which

can actually worsen the injuries

UPM Vice-Chancellor, Professor Datin Paduka Dr Aini Ideris, said: “As one of the top research universities in Malaysia, we are proud to partner with two outstanding global organisations — Safe Kids Worldwide and Honeywell.


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Kids deserve education

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

I WAS lucky to be introduced in 2014 to a group of Dutch expatriates living in Malaysia. They have been volunteering at several refugee learning centres in Kuala Lumpur. When we met for the first time, I was taken aback by their stories about the children they support.

That first conversation led to se­veral more meetings, and eventually they resulted in the formation of Ideas Academy. This is our learning centre in Pudu, where we provide secondary level education for refugee children from 12 countries.

We started in 2014 with just 25 students. Today, we have over 100. The Academy has done well. Bearing in mind that all the students come from challenging backgrounds, our teachers have done wonders to support their growth.

The teachers’ tireless effort was rewarded last year when we won the 2016 Outstanding Contribution to Secondary Education Award from the Malaysian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

When we decided to set up the Academy, we opted to specialise in secondary level education as we felt there was a need for this in the Pudu area. This was a very risky decision because it brought with it a very high cost. Let me give some examples why the costs are higher.

Unlike primary level, where the lessons are quite generic and basic in nature, secondary level education involves more technical subjects. For instance, science (and eventually biology, chemistry, and physics) is more effective if we can conduct experiments but the material and equipment are not cheap.

When it comes to secondary education, we need to factor in that Malaysia does not recognise refugees and our Government’s policy is to remove them from this country when we can. Thus, we must use a curriculum that allows the students to continue their studies when they move. Hence, we use the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum. This pushes costs up, especially to employ experienced teachers, buy textbooks and to pay the IGCSE exam fees.

But we decided to take the financial risk. Our gut-feeling told us that all children deserved a chance and we must do what we can to help.

Going by the numbers, I am pretty sure our hunch was correct.

The UNHCR website said at the end of January there were 150,430 refugees in Malaysia. This is the registered number. I am confident that if we included the unregistered ones, that number would be higher.

Out of that, 133,856 were from Myanmar, comprising some 56,135 Rohingya, 39,967 Chins, 10,662 Myanmar Muslims, 4,767 Rakhines and Arakanese, and the rest were other Myanmar ethnicities.

Then there were 16,574 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including 3,198 Pakistanis, 2,907 Sri Lankans, 1,925 Yemenis, 1,875 Syrians, 1,712 Somalis, 1,449 Iraqis, 887 Afghans, 686 Palestinians and more from other countries.

There are 21,405 children who are at school age. But it is illegal for these children to attend government schools here. And since Malaysian laws ban their parents from working to earn money, of course they are too poor to afford private schools. Their only option is to go to charity learning centres.

There are not enough learning centres to cater to the demand. There are just 124 learning centres in the country. As a result, from the 7,703 children who are supposed to get an early education, only 1,027 (15%) do so. Out of the 9,902 who were supposed to attend primary school, only 4,964 (50%) could.

The number is worse for secon­dary level because there are only two learning centres that specialise in providing secondary level education, ours being one of them. There are a few more who combine primary and secondary education under one roof but that, too, is far from enough. Out of the 4,480 children who were supposed to attend secondary school, only 863 (19%) are in a learning centre.

It is heart-warming that our Government is taking steps to help Rohingya refugees. This should be extended to cover all refugees so that we are not accused of discriminatorily picking skin colours.

All children, including refugees from all races and religions, deserve an education.

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Heng: Don’t abandon children if unable to care for them

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

IPOH: Parents who are no longer able to look after their children should send them to Welfare Department-registered welfare homes, said Wanita MCA chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie.

Heng said that parents should never neglect the welfare of their children, adding that it would be safer if a child was cared for in a registered home.

“Parents could also call MCA’s Legal Advisory and Women Aid centre to help get their unwanted child adopted. There are many couples that are unable to have children who are willing to adopt,” she told reporters during a feng shui talk at Wisma MCA Perak here on Sunday.

Heng said that there are alternatives to abandoning children.

“Malaysians are a caring society. Whenever there’s a disaster, they are always ready to spring into action,” she added.

Heng was asked to comment about a three-year-old boy who was found naked and crying alone in a house in Tampin, Negri Sembilan on Friday.

The mother, who was unemployed, is believed to have left him there alone while she went out to look after her mentally-ill mother and stepmother who was injured in a road accident.

The police have since remanded the mother for investigations.

Asked about stateless children, Heng said that those who plan to leave their children at welfare homes, temples or other institutions should leave them with the necessary documents for them to obtain citizenship.


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Islander children risk their lives to reach school

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017


Marilyn with her son at the school after arriving from the island

SANDAKAN: School children living on several islands of Sabah have to go through the daily perils of the sea condition among others to get to their school on the mainland.

Despite the risk, their parents also need to fork out extra money from boat to bus fares just to have their children education.

For 31-year-old widow, Mursa Arni, who resides at Pulau Berhala, it can be a big challenge as she has two school-going children.

“I want my children to receive education even if their school is on the mainland,” she said yesterday when met while sending her children to school on the first day of class.

They were up before 5am as they have to catch a special boat for schoolchildren, where the boat operators charges RM2 for secondary student and 50 sen for a single trip, to the mainland.

According to Mirsa, the boat journey takes 40 minutes to the Sandakan Market jetty where her children will continue their journey to school in a school bus.

“I have my primary 4 and 1 children who are both studying at SK Sri Tanjung Papat 2 which is on the seafront at Kampung Sim-Sim Berhala Darat,” she said.

Mirsa would wait for them till the school sessions ends like what she did with her elder child. “It will be too costly and long trip for me to return home and later coming out again to fetch them from school,” said the mother of five who lost her husband six months ago to sickness.

Now staying with her parents, Mirsa said that she only wanted the best for her children who should have better future.

Meanwhile, the boat operator, Linda Juanitu, 45, who is operating the business with her husband, said they have been operating the service since 2010.

“I understand the feeling of parents as I have 10 children with three of them going to the same primary school like Mursa’s children,” she said adding that they want their children to acquire knowledge.


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Chilling and never-ending cases of child abuse For more stories:

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

HOW good are you with names? Are any of these familiar: Ainul Solehah Mohd Husamuddin, Cheah Kai Sze, Cheah Kai Wen and Mohd Roshamnudin Abdullah?

Unless you follow the local news closely and have an exceptionally keen memory for names, you are not likely to know any of them. It is highly possible that you have never seen their faces either.

And you most certainly have not heard anything about what they have achieved in life and how they have touched other people’s lives.

That is because they were young children who never had the chance to grow up to pursue their dreams.

Then again, maybe they never had much time to dream. Perhaps nightmares instead dominated their brief and probably joyless lives.

Each of them has died this year under suspicious and tragic circumstances. And the adults who were supposed to take care of these children have been charged with offences related to these deaths.

On Friday, we learned of another child in Sungai Petani, Kedah, who has slipped through the cracks and has become part of this unfortunate group.

We do not yet know the name of the two-year-old boy. The details available are that he had been allegedly beaten to death and his body was found two weeks later wrapped in a thin mattress, stuffed into a cooler box and covered with ice.

His four-year-old sister is in the hospital, with marks and injuries that suggest a horrific life of abuse and neglect.

The children’s mother and her boyfriend have been remanded until Wednesday to assist in police investigations.

Every couple of months or so, the story of violence against children rears its ugly head. The police move swiftly to nab the culprits. The politicians and the authorities do what they can to help those who survive the ill-treatment.

The Star Says

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‘Home-based nurseries may help working mothers’

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is looking into the possibility of training babysitters for home-based nurseries to solve problems faced by working mothers.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya suggested that housewives or single mothers could earn extra income by taking a maximum of three children per household, including their own children.

“I believe a mother can take care of three children at a time. If a mother already has one child of her own, she can look after two more,” he said.

“If you work at a factory, you would not be able to pay RM700 or RM800 to a babysitter to look after your child.

“A RM300 fee for a child is more feasible,” he said at a press conference in the University Malaya Medical Centre here yesterday.

He said the Health Ministry had been in talks with the single mothers associations, which welcomed the idea.

“Our ministry can help with training with regards to taking care of and feeding the baby.’’

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Polluted air can affect kids’ brains

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

SOME 300 million children live with outdoor air that’s so polluted it can cause serious physical damage, including harming their developing brains, the United Nations (UN) said in a study released last week.

Nearly one child in seven around the globe breathes outdoor air that is at least six times dirtier than international guidelines, according to the study by the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) which called air pollution a leading factor in child mortality.

It published Clear the Air for Children, a week before the annual UN climate-change talks, with the upcoming round to be hosted by Morocco from tomorrow until Nov 18.

The agency, which promotes the rights and well-being of children, is pushing for world leaders to take urgent action to reduce air pollution in their countries.

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under the age of five every year.

It also threatens the lives and future of millions more every day,” said Anthony Lake, the agency’s executive director.

“Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs. They can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains and, thus, their future. No society can afford to ignore air pollution,” Lake said.

Toxic air is a drag on economies and societies, and already costs as much as 0.3% of global gross domestic product, the broad measure of economic activity.

Those costs are expected to increase to about one percent of GDP by 2060, it said, as air pollution in many parts of the world worsens.

Unicef points to satellite imagery which it says confirms that about two billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds minimum air-quality guidelines set by the World Health Organisation.

The air is poisoned by vehicle emissions, fossil fuels, dust, burning waste and other airborne pollutants, it said.

South Asia has the largest number of children living in such areas at about 620 million, followed by Africa with 520 million and the East Asia and Pacific region with 450 million.

The study also looked at indoor air pollution, typically caused by burning coal and wood for cooking and heating.

Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for almost one death in 10 in children under the age of five, or nearly 600,000 children, making air pollution a leading danger to children’s health, said the agency.

It noted that children are more susceptible than adults to indoor and outdoor air pollution because their lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing and their respiratory tracts are more permeable.

Children breathe twice as quickly as adults and take in more air relative to their body weight.

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Help molested children heal

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

WE hardly talk of the impact of the crime on the survivor, except maybe in trying to exact a more severe punishment from the judge.

And in many minds, molest is not really a crime.

It has been reported over the years that grown-ups who were molested as children have attested to being told, “Aiyah, it’s terrible what happened but he only touched you.

“He didn’t rape you” or “If you go on and on, people will talk about you instead, like you are damaged goods” or “Get over it, life must go on”.

But the psychological scar is deep. Several victims say it has affected their adult relationships because they do not like being touched.

Since the transfer of a teacher from a Tamil school in Hulu Selangor suspected of molesting nine primary pupils came to light in Parliament, reports in the media have largely focused on the suspected molester and why he was transferred instead of being suspended from work.

There is almost never any mention of whether a survivor of molest received any counselling, in what form the counselling took and how long it was held for.

In his reply to Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof disclosed there were 15 reported cases of molest since 2010 and that the action taken included counselling for the student victims by the school’s counselling teacher.

But how qualified are school counsellors in national schools? Is their level of expertise enough to ensure abused children can recover and lead healthy lives as adults?

Several retired teachers and principals interviewed said the ‘cikgu counselling’ of their time would have been of little help to victims of molest.

“In those days, it was the ‘smiley’ teacher, the one the pupils liked who was made to do the job,” said a former teacher.

“One teacher who came to my school as a counsellor attended several workshops on counselling but never actually did any, even for the usual things,” said a retired principal.

“She didn’t know how to keep proper files, let alone conduct counselling sessions. When I made enquiries, I was told she was such a poor teacher that they didn’t know what to do with her. So they moved her to counselling.”

Most teachers in national schools have a Bachelor of Education (Guidance & Counselling) degree.

But this is not enough, say child rights activists.

A social work degree in counselling psychology on the other hand would equip the counsellor with different skills.

One child advocate interviewed said they had come across a counselling manual that offered – “please pray” and “forgive the teacher” – as advice for survivors.

The Welfare Department does not seem to play a role in counselling students.

The only time when proper counselling seems to have taken place is when a children’s non-governmental body lodged the complaint of abuse.


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