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Canteens must remain open throughout Ramadan, says education minister

Fadhlina Sidek responds to calls for canteens to close if non-Muslims make up less than 10% of the student population.

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A pupil looks back during assembly time at SK Taman Tasik in Ampang on March 20.
A pupil looks back during assembly time at SK Taman Tasik in Ampang on March 20.

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek today advised school canteen operators to continue operating throughout the month of Ramadan even if less than 10% of the students are non-Muslim. 

She said this was because not all Muslim children are required to fast, especially at an early age, and that non-Muslims should be respected during Ramadan. 

"This is the Madani government, an inclusive government, where both sides respect each other. Those who fast must be polite to those who are not fasting, and those who are not fasting must learn to respect those who are fasting.

"So we don't want a scenario where students eat at the (school) store or beside drains, I don't want that kind of situation.

"(Even if less than 10% of students are non-Muslims) canteens need to remain open, and they (operators) need to discuss with the school, because I'm sure there are Muslim children who do not fast at an early age and there is no obligation for them to fast unless they want to," she told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Fadhlina said this when asked about the recommendation of Persatuan Pengusaha Kantin Sekolah Malaysia (PPKSM) not to open school canteens during the month of Ramadan if less than 10% of students there are non-Muslim. 
Media reports yesterday quoted PPKSM secretary-general Siti Normah Md Desa as saying that the education ministry should leave the decision on whether to open school canteens to school administrations and canteen operators, according to the needs of the students.

She said if canteens remained open, the operators would have to bear the operating costs which cannot be covered by the sales value obtained.