KUCHING: The Home Ministry has been urged to expedite the processing of citizenship applications, including those from stateless children, to ensure they have access to education.
Association of the Boards of Management of Aided Primary Schools in Kuching, Samarahan and Serian President, Datuk Jonathan Chai said this was not a new issue and should have been addressed promptly.
He said the ministry should intensify its efforts, such as providing mobile service team to reach out to those affected households and individuals, especially in the rural and interior areas where civil service is not readily accessible and available.
“Many parents do not understand the far-fetched implications for not registering their children’s birth at the first instance due to inaccessibility or even ignorance. Consequently, problems arise when they intend to enrol their children to study in schools,” he told New Sarawak Tribune.
“As it is, stateless children or those without legal documents are denied access to education in this country,” he said.
“It is ironic that even foreign children are allowed to enrol to study in the government schools at a nominal cost and yet those children who are “de facto” citizens are denied access,” he added.
He was commenting on the estimated number of cases gathered throughout Sarawak, where almost 1,000 children in Sarawak were denied access to education due to documentation problems, according to the findings disclosed by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) recently.
Chai believed the number could be more, hence, the government should take speedy action to resolve the problem for the sake of the future of these innocent individuals.
From a humanitarian perspective, he said, these children should be allowed access to education pending the approval of the citizenship applications of their parents.
Malaysian Commission of Human Rights (Suhakam) commissioner Datuk Dr Madeline Berma recently said that the issue of undocumented children is one of three of concern in Sarawak to Suhakam, with the other two being the native customary rights land and use of ‘bin’ and ‘binti’ by non-Muslims.
She said the issue is related to education as without documentation, the children could not register themselves for school.
As a temporary solution for this long-standing issue, Suhakam Children’s Commissioner Prof Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said the commission would write a letter to the Ministry of Education for each case to allow the children to attend school.
“We know both their parents or either one of them is a Malaysian citizen and as citizens, their children have the right to get access to education in all schools in Malaysia,” she said and added that Suhakam would also contact the state education departments and schools if they refused to accept stateless children.