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Centre makes teaching stateless kids its mission
Published on: Tuesday, May 21, 2019
By: Leonard Alaza

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. 

Centres like Rainbow of Hope can only do its part to take them off the streets and offer them basic education. The centre recently received RM10,000 donation from Chinese Kapitan Li Su Fook.



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