Educating kids of misfortune

Mustafa K. Anuar

Suhakam expresses concern for these children who lack proper formal education which could spell a bleak future for them. – EPA pic, December 30, 2023

Commentary by Mustafa K Anuar

CHILDREN who are born into unsavoury circumstances, which are beyond their control, should not be deprived of one of their basic human rights – education.

The plight of Shivaani should serve as a useful reminder of this universal human right, which is why many countries invest heavily in education because of its socio-economic, cultural and political significance.

The 10-year-old was reportedly denied entry to a national primary school in Senawang, Negeri Sembilan, in her attempt to continue her studies at Year Four. She had already completed the first three years at the same school.

A problem arose after the Education Ministry informed her family that she could not continue to study owing to citizenship documentation issues.

P. Rajheswaren, 44, who claimed to be her father, declared that he did not register his marriage at the National Registration Department, which gave rise to Shivaani not being accorded citizenship although she had her birth certificate.

Be that as it may, the apparent oversight of Rajheswaren should not become a heavy burden to his daughter to the extent that she loses access to formal education.

Obstacles should not be placed on the path of Shivaani, who is just beginning her life’s journey. Every effort should be made to see to it that justice is served.

This is especially so when education generally helps raise men and women out of poverty, as it helps to develop their talents and abilities as well as open doors for various opportunities in their later life. Education can also help level inequalities.

Shivaani’s enthusiasm to continue her education is well exemplified by her writing personally to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, seeking his intervention and assistance.

It is expected that the Madani government would be compassionate enough to resolve this matter, especially for the benefit of a child in dire straits. Surely, this child is one of the Malaysian children the government supposedly cares for.

While we do not expect the prime minister to micromanage this matter, which could be handled at the level of the state education authorities, it is hoped that the child’s wish to continue to study would be entertained nonetheless.

Shivaani’s case also brings to mind “stateless” children who have been deprived of their right to education, apart from being denied free medical care. Like Shivaani, these children are also victims of circumstances.

Suhakam, the country’s human rights commission, has expressed concern for these children who lack proper formal education which could spell a bleak future for them.

Not being able to write, read and communicate effectively may incapacitate an individual from being a well-rounded and productive person.

Similarly, in the spirit of universal education, more government funds should be poured into the education of special children so that they will not be deprived of an equal education opportunity.

In this regard, more skills-based education centres such as community colleges and vocational schools help disabled children develop into productive adults in nation-building.

Children who have odds stacked against them at an early age deserve an opportunity to improve their lives by developing their talents to their full potential through education. – December 30, 2023

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