Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Removing barriers to education

Child rights coalition voices concern over a new policy requiring stateless children to produce a passport in order to enrol in school.

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Malaysia has long recognised the crucial role education plays in a child’s development and prospects. However, the education ministry has brought in a new policy which will deprive some of the most vulnerable children living here of schooling.

It has recently come to light that children who are stateless are now expected to produce a passport to be able to enrol in schools and even children who were accepted in the past have been asked to produce one to be able to continue. By definition children who are stateless cannot apply for a passport so this policy change will create insurmountable barriers for them. Most of these children have been born in Malaysia and know no other country.

As a coalition of NGOs concerned for children’s well-being and the protection of their rights, we are very concerned about this new criteria and urge the Malaysian government to return to the earlier zero-reject policy which states that every child should be accepted into school without any reservations while efforts are being made to provide them with proper documentation.

To do anything less would contravene the spirit of the United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) of which Malaysia is a signatory. The United Nations is shortly to review Malaysia’s progress to full compliance, and we are certain that this bureaucratic hurdle will be raised and criticised. Preventing undocumented children from receiving proper education is likely to be seen as a regressive step taken by the government coming so shortly after the welcomed zero-reject policy was launched.

With all the current difficulties children are facing over their education due to the pandemic, it is worrying that a new barrier has been erected for some of the most marginalised children in the country.

We trust the problem will be swiftly rectified by the government now it has been brought to their attention.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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