Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

25 schools in Putrajaya to closed tomorrow if API reading exceeds 200

Monday, September 16th, 2019
As many as 25 schools in Putrajaya will be forced to suspend classes on Tuesday if the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading exceeds 200 which is ‘very unhealthy’. (NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH)

PUTRAJAYA: As many as 25 schools in Putrajaya will be forced to suspend classes on Tuesday if the Air Pollutant Index (API) reading exceeds 200 which is ‘very unhealthy’, according to the Deputy Director (Planning) of the Federal Territory Education Department, Dr Roslan Hussin

He said the department would monitor the API reading from time to time and schools would be required to close if the haze reading exceeded 200 to ensure the health of students and teachers stayed protected.

There are 25 schools in the Putrajaya area of which 15 are primary schools and 10 are secondary schools.

As of 4pm this afternoon, the reading of the API in Putrajaya was 196 which is unhealthy.

“We are monitoring the reading of the API in Putrajaya. The director of the Federal Territory Education Department has asked all principals and teachers to come up with an appropriate plan including postponing all activities outside the classroom based on the reading of the API,” he said when contacted here today.

Putrajaya became the latest area to register a very unhealthy API reading today with a reading of 202 at 12 noon.

By Bernama.

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Haze crisis: N95 mask offers best protection

Saturday, September 14th, 2019
Malaysians are advised to wear the N95 face mask when outdoors to protect themselves from the severe haze currently affecting most parts of the country.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are advised to wear the N95 face mask when outdoors to protect themselves from the severe haze currently affecting most parts of the country.

Senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh said the N95 mask is designed to filter at least 95 per cent of tiny, 0.3-micron particles – provided it is worn correctly, with a good fit to the face of the wearer.

He also stressed that the surgical blue or green fabric mask widely used by the public is less effective in providing protection against toxic air.

“The (popular) three-ply surgical mask cannot filter out toxic gases and fine particles of less than 2.5 microns.

“It is important to recognise that most of the harmful substances in the (haze are) toxic gases and very small particles, most under 2.5 microns in size,” he told Bernama.

Amar said that an analysis of the haze has revealed that it contains gasses such as carbon monoxide, cyanide, ammonia, formaldehyde, acrolein and benzene – some of which have carcinogenic effects.

“Ultra-fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 microns or less) often lodge deep in the lungs and have short and long-term effects on cardiovascular and pulmonary health,” he added.

Meanwhile, Health Department director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that exposure to the haze can lead to asthma, cough, eye irritation and lung infections.

He urged the public to avoid outdoor activities and to stay up to date on the haze situation via the Department of Environment’s portal,

Further information on health effects and preventive measures which can be taken against the haze is available at

By New Straits Times.

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Breakfast for all

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

All pupils in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions will be enjoying free breakfast from 2020.

BREAKFAST is the most important meal of the day.

Come January 2020, the well-intentioned plan is to ensure all 2.7 million pupils throughout the country in government and government-aided primary schools for both morning and afternoon sessions have something to eat before they begin classes for the day.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik announced on Monday that this is the Free Breakfast Programme, or better known by its Malay acronym, PSP or Program Sarapan Percuma.

The programme will follow the same model as the Supplementary Food Programme (RMT).

So far, the only factor that differentiates the PSP from the RMT is that the new programme will benefit all primary school pupils across Malaysia.

The RMT however, is limited to those from households grouped below the national poverty line, with an allocation of RM289mil this year.

In 2018,489,117 schoolchildren in 7,316 schools throughout the country received the RMT.

Under the RMT programme, poor students nationwide are given complete meals with fresh fruits and a soya bean drink every morning.

More than 20 types of meals are provided under the RMT programme, which include chicken rice, nasi lemak, fried noodles, bee hoon, roti canai, lontong, soto, nasi paprik, cereals and soup noodles.

Maszlee said it is most important to ensure that pupils get a nutritious and balanced breakfast for their growth and cognitive development.

“Pupils will sit with their teachers, learn proper eating habits and discipline, such as washing their hands before eating, clearing up after their meal and so on, ” he added.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government has the budget for the PSP to be implemented in all primary schools next year.He said the government could use the consolidated fund from the various ministries and agencies to implement the programme to benefit the pupils.

Asked whether the government would use part of the soda tax revenue to fund the programme, Dr Mahathir said all proposals would be looked into.

“All taxes collected will be distributed to the ministries and agencies according to need. If there is a need for an additional allocation, we will consider.

“If we can afford it, we will provide it, ” he told Malaysian journalists after concluding his three-day official visit to Vietnam on Wednesday.

Asked about the perfect menu for the pupils’ breakfast, Dr Mahathir said there were many healthy menus which were suitable for the programme.

Saving grace

The PSP sounds like a dream come true for some parents who struggle to ensure their children get a chance to eat a decent meal.

This is not limited to being poor and not having enough food as working parents may not have enough time to prepare breakfast for their children in the morning.

Many parents have to leave for work early in the morning or have to rush to get their children ready for school.

This does not leave much time for them to prepare breakfast, let alone for the child to eat it.

Mother Kay Tan who has four children, said getting all of them up and ready on time is a real challenge.

“Not every parent is adept in the kitchen so I’m thankful that the government is providing breakfast for those in primary schools, ” she said.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin is cautious about the implementation of the initiative.

Although he said it is “good”, he wants to know whether pupils will be able to make it on time to actually eat the food.

On instilling discipline through communal eating with the teachers and washing their own utensils, he said this should be learnt at home.

“Teachers just reinforce these qualities, ” he said.

He also foresees problems of food wastage if the child doesn’t want the food or has already eaten at home.

Father of two, George Ling, said the government also needs to look into the possibility for those who want to opt out of having their children eat at school.

“Some may prefer their children to eat at home, ” he added.

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) welcomes the minister’s announcement.

Its secretary-general Harry Tan called it a “unifying hope” to treat Malaysians equally, especially students.

“This is a long overdue step.

“It gives a strong message to pupils that all of us, no matter what our race, religion and social status is, we are all equal.

“All sensitivities, however, must be taken into account when preparing and providing the food, ” he said.

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam commended the ministry, saying a large number of pupils go to school with an empty stomach.

“They go to school in a hurry by just consuming a drink because their parents are busy or because they have to rush for their school bus; the first meal of the day is vital.

“Back in the day, food was supplied to poor pupils.

“We should congratulate the ministry on their effort but the management of it must be done with the help of Parent-Teacher Associations, ” he said.

Siva Subramaniam said there will also be added value to pupils’ attention during lessons.

“They won’t be thinking about their empty stomach.

“Taking care of our pupils will enhance their day for better education, ” he added.

Although secondary school students are not part of the programme, Siva Subramaniam urged the ministry to look into the possibility of extending the programme to them as well.

“Many secondary school students also go to school without breakfast, ” he pointed out.

Details first, please

School heads remain cautious regarding the implementation of the new programme.

Noridah Abdul Aziz, the headmistress of SK Bandar Tasik Kesuma, Selangor, said she now faces a logistical dilemma.

Her school’s canteen can only accommodate around 300 pupils, which is around 12% of the school’s population of 2,500 pupils.

Although they are divided into two sessions, there are still more pupils than available space in the canteen.

There are three recess times in the school to cater to the huge student population, she added.

She also said that the numbers keep growing and this is not even including their 126 teachers who are required to join the pupils during meal times.

“We are waiting for the ministry to issue formal instructions on how the programme will be implemented, especially for schools with a large student population.

“How will we arrange the pupils to eat breakfast because our space is small?” she questioned.

She said the pupils are not expected to eat in the classrooms.

“This is a good programme and we hope that it can be implemented properly.

“We already practice having the pupils clean up after themselves, ” said Noridah, referring to the ministry’s plans to have the school children clean their utensils.

The pupils have to clean the tables as well, she added.

“This has instilled not only discipline but also civic consciousness in them, ” she said.

SK Pauh Jaya, Penang, headmaster Ramlee Abu Bakar said the collaboration between the Health and Education Ministries is important so that the meals provided meets a child’s nutritional needs.

He added that his school provides packed, nutritious meals to its pupils valued around RM3 every day to those who want it.

Parents pay for these meals directly to the canteen operator monthly, he added.

More than 300 pupils receive these meals daily, he said, adding that the primary school has an enrolment of 1,300 pupils.

He also said the food menu, which includes a drink, is determined after consultation with the Penang state health department and district health office.

Ramlee said the menu rotates among 10 food items which include rice, fruits and vegetables.

As for drinks, he said the school serves fresh fruit juices and that sugary drinks such as cordial syrups are not allowed.

“We have strict control on the food served, ” he pointed out.

This is to ensure that pupils receive adequate nutrition so that they can “function well” throughout the school day.

What’s on the menu

The menu and budget for the PSP for primary school children are still being discussed, said Maszlee.

This is to ensure that pupils will get a nutritious breakfast of the best quality.

“The programme aims to provide nutritious food based on caloric value and balanced nutrition to ensure pupils practise a healthy lifestyle, which will stimulate their growth process.

“The menu will be determined after discussions with the Health Ministry, nutritionists and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, ” he said.

In a posting on Instagram Story on Tuesday, he explained that the plan was to serve the meals for about half an hour.

Meal times will be between 7am and 8.30am for the morning session, and noon and 4pm for the afternoon session, he added.

“A special committee will be formed to discuss in detail the provisions that will be used for the PSP, ” he said.

Maszlee has said the programme is inspired by what Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad saw in Japan.

The country’s pupils received nutritional food and learned civic consciousness via the programme there.

Many have joined the effort to improve meals at schools globally, which are generally deemed to be lacking in nutrition.

Among them is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who has been actively trying to change eating habits in schools in Britain since 2005 with his television show Jamie’s School Dinners.

The programme revealed the poor standards of school food in the UK.

The Jamie Oliver Foundation, in its research years later, found that many schools served food high in fat and sugar during break and lunch times despite the campaign.

Some of the food included pizza, doughnuts, muffins and cookies.

It was reported that Oliver admitted his school dinner campaign was not a success as he felt that eating well was still viewed as an “indulgence of the middle classes” in the Britain.

Former US first lady Michelle Obama had pushed for healthier school meals as part of her agenda to tackle obesity. During the Obama administration, the US Congress passed laws requiring school lunches to be more nutritious.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed by the Congress in 2010, required schools to only provide grain products that contained at least 50% whole grains and reduce sodium, full-fat milk and meat from meals.

Snacks with low nutritional value were to be swapped for fruit cups and granola bars.

The United States’ Department of Agriculture also published new regulations to enforce the law.

However, that initiative failed as Donald Trump’s administration reversed those guidelines last year.

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70 per cent of refugee kids do not go to school

Monday, August 5th, 2019
Rohingya children playing at the Knowledge Garden Learning Centre in Serdang. Refugee communities run their own community-based learning centres. FILE PIC

LAST month, we conducted an elective project at selected refugee schools in the Klang Valley.

The schools we visited were run mainly by the Rohingya and Chin communities. As expected, the schools were severely underfunded, understaffed and in deplorable condition.

There are about 175,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. The exact number is unknown as the unregistered ones are said to be of equal or perhaps bigger number.

Children comprise about 25 per cent of this population, or 48,000.

Of the schoolgoing age group, only 30 per cent are reported to be enrolled in schools. Nobody knows for sure what happened to the remaining 70 per cent.

In Malaysia, refugee children are not allowed to enrol in public schools. As such, refugee communities run their own community-based learning centres. These learning centres have no sustainable funds.

Employing permanent teachers is difficult and reliance on volunteers means a high turnover rate. Many of these schools depend on public donations to meet rental and utility costs.

Worst of all, children often come to school hungry.

The plight of refugees in Malaysia is no secret. We know that they live in dire poverty,
they have almost no access to formal education and affordable healthcare, they are socially marginalised, it is illegal for them to work and they live in constant fear.

But what we do not know, or perhaps are not willing to do, is to treat them as we would like to be treated.

While it might be true that there is a lack of research on refugees in the Malaysian context that can assist policymakers in designing effective intervention programmes, what we need is not so much of “scientific evidence” but a living conscience and strong political will.

From the mini-survey we conducted, one in three Rohingya and Chin adolescents in school had depression of varying degrees. Girls on average were more distressed than boys. This is not surprising. With all the social exclusion, discrimination and restrictions, do we expect them to be happy and content?

Most students we spoke to expressed hopelessness about their future and “where to go” once they finished school.

Tertiary education does not seem to be an option and working can potentially land them in jail.

Malaysia loses nothing by granting these children access to education.

Many of them are likely to stay as the prospect of resettlement is getting more difficult each year and they will be a huge asset to Malaysia.

In fact, a large number of the children were born and brought up here, are able to speak Bahasa Malaysia fluently and have little familiarity with their home country.

By providing education and affordable healthcare, we do not only save this generation but also prevent the young from falling into a life of crime.

By Raudah Mohd YunusNur Aisyah ZainordinNur Saniah ShamsuddinNur Athira ZailanaNur Sabila Syazwani Hariyono.

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Health Ministry: Ban ‘ghost smoke’ candy even if it is not harmful.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry did not find any forbidden ingredients in the controversial “ghost smoke” candy but product seizures were made because it violated labelling requirements.

“There were no forbidden ingredients but the product was seized because the content did not match what was on the label,” said Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.

He said that the candy had been analysed by his ministry and added that all of its ingredients were permitted for consumption.

However, he did not elaborate on its ingredients.

Dr Lee also said that the details of the importer and manufacturer were unclear and added that the Ministry remains firm in its decision to ban the product as it mimics smoking and could encourage children to take up the habit.

On Tuesday (July 23), Dr Lee revealed that the ministry had formed a task force to scrutinise the ingredients of the candy.

By Jo Timbuong
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Burden of proof means few paedophiles are convicted.

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

PETALING JAYA: It is an uphill task for underage victims of sexual abuse to seek justice despite the enactment of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 due to the demanding nature of the legal process, say children’s rights advocates.

PS The Children executive director Mariza Abdulkadir said the challenge in obtaining tangible evidence was one reason behind the low conviction rate of paedophiles.

“That’s because in most cases, a police report is not made immediately when abuse happens,” she said.

She added that due to the sensitive nature of the particular crime, it is procedurally difficult to even charge a perpetrator.

“The conviction rate is dismally low even in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, the reason being the nature of these cases.

“Many times, the victims are re-traumatised in the process as well,” she said.

Independent child advocate Madeleine Yong said the current law simply requires “too much evidence to be in place” before a suspect can be charged.

“Children need medical proof to prove they have been raped, such as a physical tear. They also need corroborative evidence,” she said.

It is even more challenging for victims of sexual molestation to seek justice due to the lack of physical evidence, Yong added.

“For molestation, the child has to testify and to testify as a child witness, the system at present needs to be sped up and simplified.

“Molestation is really difficult. The younger the victim is, the worse it is,” she said.

Yong noted that underage molestation cases, particularly those involving preschool children and children with special needs, are much more challenging due to the need for them to be questioned by the authorities.

“The procedure to deal with sexual assault cases needs to be sped up and based on the best interest of the child,” she said.

Over the years, child advocates have been vocal against the previous government’s decision to place national sex abuse statistics under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Last year, Suriana Welfare Society executive director Scott Wong highlighted the fact that many Malaysians were ignorant of the sexual exploitation of children, while pointing out that the OSA placed on the official statistics hampered efforts to address the issue.In an interview with The Star last Sep­tember, Deputy Women, Family and Com­munity Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said removing the sex abuse statistics from the OSA would be her priority.

Meanwhile, Mariza said while such statistics should be made available to the public, it was also imperative to create public awareness on the topic so that such cases could be prevented in future.

“The release of statistics won’t lead to any substantial changes. Education and awareness will. I believe in educating the public and I believe the media can help do that,” she said

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Educate the young about human trafficking

Thursday, February 14th, 2019
Traffickers target their victims using tailored methods of recruitment and control to force them into labour or commercial sex. REUTERS PIC

THE increase in the number of human trafficking cases is a huge cause for concern.

Often described as modern-day slavery, it is a scourge in most countries.

The stories are almost the same everywhere. Victims are deceived into accepting job offers that promise a better life.

Instead, they find themselves trapped in a cycle of physical and psychological abuse, as in the case of 47 Malaysians arrested in Cambodia on suspicion of being members of an international online gambling syndicate.

According to the United Nations, more than 130 countries have been identified as transit or destination countries for human trafficking.

Victims come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, with varied levels of education.

Traffickers target their victims using tailored methods of recruitment and control to force them into labour or commercial sex.

Traffickers target poor and marginalised communities with the promise of jobs and a better life.

Traffickers maintain an online presence to lure vulnerable adults and children with the goal of meeting them in person, to take and circulate explicit photos, and coerce them into complying with their demands

Understanding the risk factors for victims can help one to intervene before it is too late.

Many people think that human trafficking is similar to kidnapping, or the sale of women and children by terrorists or domestic helpers turned into slaves in wealthy familes. It is more than that.

It is an issue of supply chain. Traffickers target vulnerable workers to fill labour shortages in a supply chain.

In the electronics sector, human trafficking exist in the extractive stages (where raw material is mined), the component manufacturing stage (where separate pieces are produced or combined) and the production stage (where goods are assembled and packaged in a factory).

Education and creating awareness of human trafficking can reduce cases. Awareness of human trafficking should start in primary schools. If children have age-appropriate information, it will protect them.

Not only the young need to be educated about human trafficking, parents, grandparents, educators and healthcare professionals also need to be roped in.

Human trafficking is a health, security and moral issue. It erodes political systems and harms communities.

It could happen anywhere, any time, in secrecy or in the open. You would not even be aware of it if you don’t know the signs.


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Two years’ crime rate in Kota Kinabalu schools down to zero

Sunday, January 27th, 2019


Habibi (third left) handing over a memorabilia of the police liaison officer appointing program to Umin.

KOTA KINABALU: Two police liaison officers will be assigned to every primary and secondary school in the district where they are expected to give talks to the students twice on a monthly basis.

Its chief, ACP Habibi Majinji said so far there are no issues with primary students and the program will be mostly focused on those in their secondary years.

He said this is due to raging hormones and the rebellious spirit in teenagers during their years of seeking their self-identity which if not supervised could be potentially destructive.

“Previously there were isolated reports of more serious crimes like molestation and drug use amongst students.

“But after collaborating with the Education Ministry and implementing strategical improvements for about two years now the crime rate in schools has dropped to zero,” he told reporters at the Karamunsing headquarters.

He added that gateway vices like smoking and glue sniffing can be deterred through the program as it also involves the police to work closely with teachers and parents of Kota Kinabalu’s 58 primary and 24 secondary schools.

An official from the Education Ministry, Umin Sadi, said most parents tend to defend their children when called out on their mischief.


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New mobile app for parents, schools

Sunday, January 6th, 2019
Pupils queuing to get food during recess on the first day of the new school year. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Pupils queuing to get food during recess on the first day of the new school year. — The Straits Times/Asia News Network

PARENTS will no longer have to fill in consent forms by hand when their children take part in field trips or learning journeys.

They will now be able to do so with the click of a button, after Education Minister Ong Ye Kung launched mobile application, Parents Gateway.

It aims to improve communication between parents and schools at the primary, secondary and junior college levels.

About 200 parents of Primary 1 pupils from Huamin Primary in Singapore were at the school for the app’s launch.

Schools will be able to use the app to send parents updates on programmes and activities.

Parents can use it for administrative purposes such as providing consent for their children to participate in school activities.

“There is a lot of potential. We can look at other uses for parents, for example, travel declaration and checking of Edusave balance.

“Once that is done, we can also include a payment function for school excursions, for example.

“So, I think we need not be limited other than by our imagination,” said Ong.

Administrative assistant Vanitha Varatharajoo, 34, who has a daughter in Primary 5 and a son in Primary 6 at Huamin, said: “We used to receive consent forms and letters from the school, but sometimes we misplaced them or the kids might throw them away.”

“Now, we can refer to programme details whenever we want or check if the children have home-based learning,” she said.

Ong said the app would benefit teachers as well.

“I really hope (through) using this gateway, we can cut down on the administrative load on the teachers and this hopefully will, over time, free up more time for them so they can better focus on what they are good at, which is teaching and learning,” he said.

Parents can log in using their SingPass accounts, and receive one-time passwords via SMS two-factor authentication or the OneKey token.

The app is available on iOS and Android, and was developed by the Government Technology Agency and the Education Ministry.

The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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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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