Solve issues of undocumented children

Irene Chang

SIBU: Opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) has come out in defence of a nine-year-old girl who was stopped from continuing to attend classes on the account of not having the required documentation.

In bringing up the case of Jeanny Lianna Ating from Lawas, the party said it has highlighted yet again the plight of undocumented children in Sarawak.

It questions whether the zero-reject policy is still in effect under the in the country.

DAP Sarawak Political Education Bureau director Irene Chang said the special task force known as the Sarawak Special Committee on Citizenship (SSCOC) set up to help undocumented children to apply for Malaysian citizenship, should step in.

“Since it was reported that Jeanny’s family had yet to furnish all the documents to enable her to attend school, both the state ministry of education and the special task force should instruct the Lawas District Education Office to indicate clearly what are the lacking documents and to assist the family to furnish them in order that she may forthwith be allowed to go back to school,” she said.

“This is especially when it was also reported that the father had claimed the application for Jeanny’s citizenship is already pending at the National Registration Department (JPN).” 

Chang said the forced withdrawal of Jeanny from school due to her lack of citizenship may pose a serious concern for all undocumented children currently attending school.

The families of such children will surely be apprehensive as to whether their children would be made to suddenly withdraw from school, she pointed out.

This, she said, would be in violation of the human rights of all children having the right to access to education.

Chang called on the State government to ensure Sarawak’s children are not propelled back into this predicament and be denied access to this basic and fundamental human right.

Towards this end Chang said the zero-reject policy was implemented by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) in 2019 for the purpose of ensuring that all special needs children and undocumented children have access to education.

“However, sometime in March 2021, former education minister Maszlee Malik had raised the question as to whether the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has abolished the zero-reject policy as an eight-year-old child in Kelantan was forced at that time to withdraw from school due to her lack of citizenship.

“Further on, sometime in October 2021, Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi informed the Dewan Negara that there did not seem to have any development for disabled students in regards to the zero-reject policy, ” she said.

In her statement Chang also emphasised that education autonomy be returned to Sarawak, so that Sarawak may be empowered to determine the standard procedures which would allow stateless or disabled children to attend school.

“We should not be completely dependent on the implemented policies and directives of the federal government, especially if the federal government has not expressly shown any indication to improve or further develop the policy that will provide relief and assistance to the tens of thousands of stateless children in the country,” she added.

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