Daily Express
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Pioneer school for stateless kids

Published on: Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kota Kinabalu: A pioneer national curriculum-based education centre for undocumented children in Sabah has been set up in Kg Numbak, Menggatal, near here.

The Ministry project is a first-of-its-kind initiative by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in collaboration with the Sabah Special Task Force Sabah and Labuan, and Malaysian Teacher's Foundation.

Deputy Education Minister, Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi, said the Centre would implement alternative education for children with no documents, incomplete documents and non-citizens.

"The Centre in Kg Numbak enables 250-300 children to learn basic education that focuses on the 3M concept - reading, writing and arithmetic.

The children will also acquire knowledge on Islamic education, moral education and Malaysian nationalism.

"This positive move will not only eradicate illiteracy in the country but is also an effort to produce quality human capital with good morals and a high spirit of patriotism," he said, when opening the Educare Centre, Saturday.

Also present were Karambunai Assemblywoman Datuk Jainab Ahmad, Unicef Representative to Malaysia Hans Olsen, Malaysian Teacher Foundation Chairman Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom, Sabah and Labuan Special Task Force Director Datuk Misri Barham, Sepanggar Umno Divisional Chief Datuk Jumat Idris and Sabah Education Department deputy Director Maimunah Suhaibul.

Under this alternative education, he said the Ministry would act as a coordinating agency, while other organisations and government agencies like the Education Department, private sector and non-governmental organisations are allowed to implement the alternative education by complying with certain requirements set by the ministry.

"I was made to understand that the Centre has been in operation since early this year and the response from parents and the community in the village is overwhelming although the centre is not operating like other government schools.

"The positive response is proven with the presence of 370 children with six classes and six teachers operating in three sessions - 7.30am to 10.30am, 11am to 2pm and 1.30pm to 4.30pm," he said.

Dr Mohd Puad said the Government could not afford to provide education for all children including the undocumented children, refugees and stateless due to financial constraints although Malaysia has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) under the United Nations.

Nonetheless, he added that the Government is committed to providing education for undocumented children after it ratified the CRC on March 19, 1995.

Hence, Dr. Mohd Puad said any form of assistance from non-governmental organisations like Unicef and the private sector is very much needed and welcomed.

"We are grateful for Unicef's support and commitment in allocating RM451,000 from 2010 up to end 2012 to finance the refurbishing of the building, providing basic facilities and paying monthly allowances to the six teachers and other necessary expenses.

"I hope such kind of partnership like in this project in Kg Numbak would be extended to other future planned projects which are related to alternative education for undocumented children," he said.

According to Dr Mohd Puad, a 2009 study by the Ministry's Educational Planning and Research Division (EPRD) discovered that over 40,000 undocumented children, aged 7 to 17, in the country are not in school.

He said the study showed that the main cause was due to not having complete documents. Therefore, he said, the ministry has issued a circular to enable Malaysian children without complete documents to be accepted in government schools and government-aided schools.

And for non-Malaysian children without complete documents, Dr. Mohd Puad said the Ministry has approved a policy that will see education provided to these children through alternative education such as the centre in Kg Numbak.

In a related development, he said Sabah has 14 centres known as Kafa classes including in Kg Numbak that are handled and managed by the Special Task Force of Sabah and Labuan involving 4,809 children excluding schools handled by Humana, a non-governmental organisation supported by the Swedish Government.

He said Humana has 106 education centres in Sabah that cater to 7,509 Indonesian students and there are also Community Learning Centres that provide such education to 3,207 students in the State.

To a question, Dr Mohd Puad said the Ministry has issued a circular that government schools can accept undocumented children who have a letter of verification from headmen that confirm the child is a local if both parents are locals or one of them is a Malaysian in their respective village.