Archive for the ‘Children's Safety’ Category

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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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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