Archive for the ‘Kids on the streets.’ Category

Activity centre for KK street children soon

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

KOTA KINABALU: The Federal Government, in cooperation with the Sabah government, United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Sabah Social Welfare Department (Sabah JKMN), is seeking to establish an activity centre co-funded by the European Union for street children.

Their representatives together with Sabah Minister of Health and People’s Wellbeing, Datuk Frankie Poon, inspected the site of the activity centre, which is now under renovation, at the Api-Api Centre here on Tuesday.

After the site inspection, Poon was invited to a seminar held where experiences and views were shared on the project.

Poon said that the state government led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal has always shown great concern over issues concerning unemployment, the homeless people and street children.

“We, the Ministry of Health and People’s Wellbeing, needs to support the implementation of this plan to improve the current situation of street children.

“In addition to addressing the needs of street children, we must also understand in depth their background and why they are on the streets in order to formulate solutions to reduce their numbers in the future,” he said in a statement here yesterday.

Poon said the preliminary objective of the project is to reduce the number of street children in the city centre, and to provide a safe space for them to obtain basic services such as food, health, education, and recreational activities.

“The long-term objective is to develop more holistic services, including counselling and child protection. The final beneficiaries of this program will be children on the move who are migrants or forcibly displaced (within Malaysia or across borders), documented/undocumented refugees or stateless children.

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Giving hope to stateless pre-schoolers

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

TELIPOK: To witness their child graduate is an unforgettable moment for parents of 21 stateless preschoolers of Harvest Learning Centre at its 4th Graduation Ceremony on Saturday.

Scenes at the Grand Merdeka Mall were filled with voices of jubilant pupils singing their hearts out to the national and state anthems, ‘Negaraku’ and ‘Sabah Tanahairku’ in the presence of proud parents and teachers at the event.

Head teacher, Dharma Lingam who runs the learning center, believes in giving a chance to undocumented children to get an education which would help them to build a better future for themselves and their families.

“Every child deserves the right to education, it’s no different to children who are stateless because without education, the future of a child is destroyed,” he told New Sabah Times at the event which was held in conjunction with Christmas celebrations.

He said the learning centre is also a refuge and ‘safe school’ for many migrant children who don’t have that security in their own communities due to greater exposure to social abuses, as well as high incidences of child marriage.

The learning centre has a total of 70 students and a capacity of 100 pupils, with each class limited to 20 students. There are four class sessions in the morning while five in the evening.

“The whole idea of education is to give the younger generation a sense of purpose, and we believe they should be allowed to explore their potential at schools, to learn and acquire skills,” said Dharma, who is also the Project Director of Harvest Center Borneo, which is part of an affinity outreach network for marginalized children.

According to class teacher, Rosalina Binti Angging @Nordin, pupils are grouped based on their learning ability, noting there are 14-year olds who cannot read that are accepted to the learning centre.

This may come as a surprise to many that Rosalina is only 18 years old but is actively teaching Mathematics and Bahasa Malaysia, and is also the recipient of the learning centre’s top student award.

“I enjoy teaching since I prefer doing something beneficial rather than staying at home, although we can’t work because we don’t have any SPM papers. I’m thankful that headmaster, Dharma has offered us this job to teach at his school,” she said.

Children without any birth documents or legal status have been broadly classified as stateless, and are usually the offspring of migrant workers from the Philippines and Indonesia, although there have been numerous cases of one parent being Malaysian.

They are called ‘invisible children’ said Dharma, since stateless kids are without identity or birth certificates, and are only known by their names.

Due to their legal status, they are unable to attend school and end up loitering in the streets, exposing themselves to negative elements while those in estates end up working without ever attending school.

But during the programme, young pupils were well behaved, dressed in their little uniforms and staged a wonderful performance full of talent and heart, singing patriotic songs and performing drama as well as various dances.

Many of them had surprisingly good command of English and are eager to learn – testament to the success of the learning centre’s education programme.

Among them was Nor Fatin Ezati, a bright and modest 11-year-old pupil who has set her sights on becoming a teacher.

“I would like to become a teacher and teach English since it’s my favourite subject,” said Nor Fatin, who is also the eldest daughter of four siblings.

Another student with big dreams was 9 year-old Mohamad Ikram, who wants to study hard to achieve his ambition to become a cop.

“For first timers who has never schooled before, they get used to the idea of formal lessons after a while, and are showing great enthusiasm to learn more. In terms of academic performance, they are doing good and improving,” said the centre’s 17-year-old English teacher, Nurul Hafizah Bte Gamar.

Dharma said most of the teachers at the learning centre consists of those from undocumented peoples, and given training and courses needed to allow them to play their role as teachers to help other children from their own communities.

He further noted the centre has new initiatives next year, among them include an agreement with Dignity For Children Foundation, an internationally-recognised institution providing education and care for underprivileged children.

With 20 years of establishment, the school is the largest and most comprehensive learning centre for the underprivileged, as well as refugees, having received the Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support in 2018.


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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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Centre makes teaching stateless kids its mission

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Rainbow of Hope, one of the privately-run centres that provide basic literacy programmes to children without documents, wants to continue giving its service as long as the stateless problem in Sabah persists.

The centre advocates that every child, regardless their background, has the right to basic education and having seen its power to transform lives in the past 15 years, it stays motivated to help those who do not have access to it.

Its founder Sylvia Jeanes, a 78-year-old Australian, said she has seen many undocumented children who had come out of the centre develop a positive attitude toward themselves and life in general, despite facing a lot of uncertainties due to their status.

She is convinced that such attitude is the result of some basic education they have received at the centre which has helped them gain a certain level of self-confidence.

“Most of them that I know tend to work in the building sector. Many came back to meet me and I could see they were cheerful. They didn’t complain about their work, about their life. They were very positive,” she said.

Founded in 2003, Rainbow of Hope provides basic literacy to children aged six to 16 years who otherwise do not have access to formal education. It currently serves 180 children.

“I remember even when we first set up the centre, we heard so many complaints around our neighbourhood about people’s belongings like shoes going missing. But for a long time now we don’t hear such complaints anymore.

“I strongly believe that any child, no matter what situation they are in, will become a better person from having education.

It just gives them a sense of purpose in life,” she said.

Jeanes, who came to Sabah decades ago and had taught in some of the remotest schools in the state, is aware about the strong sentiments people have on the issue of statelessness but insists that a child’s right to education transcends it.

For some time already now, the issue of stateless individuals have been hotly debated by various parties after the State Government announced its intention to assist Sabah-born children who are categorised as foreigners.

But this only applies to children whose either parent is Malaysian.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal had said the state-initiated programme aimed at assisting these children to be legalised with proper documents so that they can have a better start for a brighter future.

He had also explained that the State Government was doing it on humanitarian grounds as the children, like every other child, had the right to a bright future.

As for children whose both parents are foreigners, the law has it that they should be deported. But the situation remains that many of them are still roaming the streets in the state.

By: Leonard Alaza.

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Teo: Parents, guardians of stateless children not aware of educational opportunities.

Sunday, April 7th, 2019
IPOH: Parents and guardians of stateless children are still not aware that there are opportunities for their kids to be enrolled in government schools, says Teo Nie Ching.

The Deputy Education Minister said stateless children can enrol in such schools, provided they have documentation to show that their father is a Malaysian.

“We believed that many parents and guardians are still unaware about it,” she told a press conference after visiting SK Marian Convent here on Sunday (April 7).

She said parents and guardians of stateless children could also furnish birth certificates, or a court order to show that their children were born in Malaysia, adding that the government’s goal is to provide education for everyone.

Teo also gave a thumbs-up over the Perak government’s effort in setting up a committee to help stateless children enrol in schools.

“I have not met with the committee yet, but I am thankful that they have made an effort to help stateless children get education.

“We hope that they will also help us to inform parents and guardians of stateless children about the opportunity to enrol their children in government schools,” she added.

On March 30, state Education Committee chairman Dr Abdul Aziz Bari announced the committee would conduct its pilot project in Gerik.

This enabled a stateless seven-year-old girl from Gerik to enrol in SK Ganda Temenggor, with the help of state government in January.

Teo was visiting SK Marion Convent, after a storm had damaged four classrooms in the school.

The accident, which occurred on March 30, had caused some 180 pupils to study in the school hall and library while waiting for repairs to be carried out.

“The ministry will contribute a total of RM100,000 to help with the school repairs, which will be completed within two weeks.

“We had no choice but to do it during school sessions. If we allowed the contractors to work only during weekends, it will take up to two months to get the job done.

BIli Aqilah

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KL to work with Sabah on stateless kids issue, says DPM

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

BEAUFORT: The issue of stateless children in Sabah, which has been a protracted matter, should be dealt with jointly by the state and federal governments.

Commenting on the matter, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (pic) said the government has the platform to address it by activating the Sabah Foreigners Management Committee.

“The main committee level is jointly chaired by the Sabah Chief Minister (Mohd Shafie Apdal) and the Home Minister (Muhyiddin Yassin).

“With this platform, we will not have overlapping roles by setting new committees to coordinate the problem,” she said when met by the media after opening the Beaufort Disaster Evacuation Centre.

She said there are similar problems in the peninsula but, at the same time, the government has to protect the rights of its citizens as well.

Recently, a private television station revealed a village near a rubbish dump in Sabah which was inhabited by a community which had many children who did not have citizenship

Earlier, Wan Azizah officiated the RM5 million disaster evacuation centre for Beaufort district.

She said the centre, which was built in December 2016, was completed in June last year with various facilities such as bathrooms, surau, kitchen and an operations room.

“The relief centre will provide victims of floods, which occur frequently here, with proper shelter,” she said

In another development, Bernama reported that the Cabinet had already approved the restructuring of the committee to address the issue of residents’ identification documentation.

Muhyiddin said the first meeting with Shafie pertaining to the committee would be held in the near future.

“I met with the chief minister this morning and we have discussed holding the meeting in the near future.

“One of the issues to be discussed is how to streamline the management of foreigners in Sabah as this problem has long been taking place in the state.


Stateless kids’ plight

Thursday, February 14th, 2019
Siti Masitah’s brutal murder must jolt us into action regarding the plight of stateless children

THEY are called by several names — invisible children, hidden children, stateless children, undocumented children, and lost children. Their existence today makes a mockery of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), which stipulates that every child has a right to a name, a nationality, and a right to education. Article 7(1) of CRC states that “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality …”  while Article 28(1) states that “States Parties recognise the right of the child to education…”.

The  Unicef portal revealed that Malaysia had ratified the Convention in 1995 but had made “reservations” to some of its provisions, including Article 7 and Article 28(1). What this means is that Malaysia is not bound to recognise the child’s right to name and nationality as well as his right to education.

Article 12 of our Federal Constitution guarantees “the rights in respect of education” but they are available only to Malaysian citizens.

Siti Masitah Ibrahim, 11, who went missing on Jan 30, was a stateless child. She was a stateless person because her Cambodian mother has no identification document or permanent residency card.

When her mother reported her missing, the Nur Alert system was not activated. “Nur” is the acronym for “National Urgent Response”.

Pekan police chief Superintendent Amran Sidek explained that the system was not activated because Masitah’s parents were foreigners. Although they had settled down in Pekan since the 1980s, they do not have any identification documents.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh clarified that the Nur Alert system is applicable to all children under 12 reported missing, regardless of nationality and regardless of documentation.

Assistant Commissioner Choo Lily (of the Federal Sexual, Women and Children’s Investigation Division) said on the day the police received the report from the child’s parents, the Nur Alert should have been blasted out through the system with the child’s brief description and a latest photograph.

Masitah’s body was discovered by villagers in an oil palm plantation in Kampung Tanjung Medang Hilir, Pekan, on Sunday.

Pahang Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Othman Nanyan later told reporters that police had detained a  Cambodian  on Jan  31, the day after the girl had disappeared.

At first, the suspect (who has no identification documents) did not admit his involvement in Masitah’s disappearance but upon further questioning, he admitted it. He is now under remand until Feb 17 under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

On Feb 12, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim told the media that after this recent incident, police will review the procedure on missing persons and ensure that reports of such incidents were not taken lightly.

An Aljazeera report in 2016 stated there were at least 50,000 undocumented children in Sabah. The Asia Foundation described these “hidden children” as among the country’s most vulnerable. They are offspring of migrant workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, or the Bajau Laut nomadic people. Their families have lived in Malaysia for generations, but their births were not registered by their parents because of the fear of arrest.

In November 2016, former home minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said there were more than 290,000 stateless children in Malaysia. Without any official status, they cannot travel, attend government schools or gain access to the public health system. Without documentation, they risk detention and face difficulty in getting employment.

Last November, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik told the media that undocumented children can be admitted to national schools as long as one of their parents is a Malaysian citizen. This is part of the government’s new “Undocumented Children Can Enter Schools 2019” initiative. Even if Siti Masitah was still alive today, this new initiative would mean nothing to her because both her parents are undocumented.

According to UNHCR, there are at least 10 million stateless people around the world. Every 10 minutes, a stateless child is born somewhere in the world. In 2014,  this UN body started its campaign to end statelessness by 2024.

To achieve this goal, it has urged all states to implement the following measures as part of its Global Action Plan to End Statelessness — allow children to gain nationality of the country in which they are born; reform laws that prevent mothers from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers; eliminate laws and practices that deny nationality because of their ethnicity, race or religion; and ensure universal birth registration to prevent statelessness.


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Census on stateless, undocumented individuals

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: A government affiliate called Gabungan NGOs Negeri Sabah (GANNOS) will conduct a census on about 800,000 individuals in the state who claim to be stateless or do not possess any identification document.

The organisation’s president Datuk Nani Sakam said the census would be carried out by 29 GANNOS associations from tomorrow in seven zones – North West Coast, South West Coast, Upper Interior, Lower Interior, Labuan, Sandakan and Tawau.

“For a start, the census task force will only collect 10 samples (undocumented individuals) in each district. They will be given till July 15 to return the census or research forms to the secretariat. The census report will be filed and submitted to the state and federal governments.

“Our aim is to help the people and government to address the issue. We do not want to see Sabah after 20 years for instance, being full of undocumented people,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting for the census task force here on Friday.


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School for street kids gets hostel

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited Sekolah Bimbingan Jalinan Kasih, the only school in the country for street children, and approved a RM30mil allocation to build a hostel there.

He said the future of the children at the school, in Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, Kampung Baru, would be more assured with a hostel.

“The future of the children at this school is unique and challenging. As such, the government decided to build a hostel at the school,” he said.

SBJK provides free education to children aged from four to 19.

It was established on the initiative of the Education Ministry to provide access to education to street children in Kuala Lumpur.

Najib was impressed with the commitment of the school principal, Zulkernai Fauzi, and the teachers in educating these children.

“They are doing something that goes beyond their scope of duties, for the sake of giving these children an education,” he said.

The Prime Minister also praised the teachers for their efforts in seeking out street children and getting them admitted to the school.

Earlier, in his speech, Najib said the school, with an enrolment of 143, was unique in Malaysia and probably the only one of its kind in the world.

He said the school helped these children to get a complete education so that they would have a brighter future.

He also advised the children to study hard and realise their dreams.

“I hope all of you will study hard to realise your ambitions. We have to study hard. Do not skip school.

“Just now, my wife (Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor) asked what you want to be when you grow up.

“Some of you said you want to become doctors, bank officers, teachers and footballers. Some of you said you want to be the prime minister.

“Whatever your dreams and ambitions, you must study hard,” he said.

At the event, Najib handed over Aidilfitri goodies to the children.

He also announced the appointment of show host Datuk Aznil Nawawi as the icon and mentor of the school.


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Look into the plight of Bajau Laut, urges NGO

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

KOTA KINABALU: They are stateless, deprived of education, employment and healthcare and live in abject po­verty in the east coast of Sabah.

But things are looking up for the nomadic Palau or Bajau Laut (sea gypsies) since their plight was highlighted by a non-governmental organisation involved in family planning and health.

Lim Hwei Mian, programme services head of the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations visited the Palau in Lahad Datu and described them as a “pitiful community”.

“I found that many of the girls become mothers at an average age of 15, and they have many children. They live, eat and even give birth on boats.

“They can’t go to school, work or get proper hospital treatment if they fall ill,” said Lim, adding that many of them did not even know their real ages.

She said there should not be such a situation in Malaysia, which aims to be a developed country by 2020.

“This is what we see in Third World countries. How is it that these people do not to have any documents or nationality?” she asked.

Lim urged the Government to issue birth certificates and identity cards to the Palau so that they would be able to go to school, receive healthcare and find jobs if they want to, just like other Malaysians.

“If nothing is done, the cycle of po­­verty and poor living conditions of these people will never end,” she said.

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