NGOs in Sarawak, Sabah wants int’l politics and war conflicts to be kept out of schools amidst Palestine solidarity week controversy

School books. —DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

KUCHING, Oct 25: A coalition of 17 non-governmental organisations from Sarawak and Sabah has urged the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the federal government to keep international politics and conflicts, religious disputes and war-related matters out of schools and education institutions.

This call came following a notice allegedly from MOE dated Oct 21, 2023, requesting all schools to demonstrate and observe a solidarity week in support of the Palestinian cause.

The coalition also claimed that the alleged notice from the deputy director-general of Education Office outlined six proposed activities to be carried out in all schools, including the launch of a Palestinian Solidarity Week during morning assemblies, launching of fundraising for Palestinians, and the presentation of videos and songs suitable to the humanitarian issue in Palestine.

Expressing shock over the notice in a joint statement, the collective of NGOs said they are looking at the seriousness of dragging school children into becoming part of the global, grown up adult world of protests and in the Middle East crisis.

“We are deeply concerned over this controversial event by a simple administrative ruling without discussions on its appropriateness in the Dewan Rakyat or without consulting the parents. The proposed action has not been adequately considered for its long-term impact. We are seemingly reflecting community views as well.

“We cautioned that the six propositions can go wrong and be a cause for concern and with far-reaching repercussion,” the coalition stressed in a statement today.

The group pointed out that schools are not just a place for academic advancement but also for instilling moral ethics and values that enrich a multiracial, multicultural and multireligious Malaysian society.

They reminded the government of Malaysia about its commitment to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), particularly Article 29, which underscores the importance of educating children with respect for human rights, peace, tolerance, and understanding.

The group and netizens have raised concerns that the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim is giving the impression of Malaysia aligning itself with one side of the Israel-Hamas conflict on religious and political grounds.

“We should stand up for peace and demand for the halting of all civilian casualties and not spike the crisis further by siding one nation state while condemning another with racist undertones.

“Malaysia should be focusing more on reviving our economic crisis and the fall of Malaysian Ringgit in the wake of this Middle East war.”

The group expressed fear over the potential spread of certain sentiments, condemnation, hatred and prejudices within the education system, particularly if teachers promote the idea of a religious war or justify anti-semitism.

“We cannot poison our young children’s minds. The government also needs to consider Malaysian students who are studying abroad. Their welfare and safety cannot be jeopardised as a result of the government’s stand on the war crisis,” they warned.

They reminded the government that many Malaysians travelling abroad would be subjected to visa refusals and scrutiny or face other dangers and life-threatening situations.

“Let us stop getting our children and the people of Malaysia baited (sic) to the problems that are growing larger by the days,” they called on.

The NGOs in support of this statement include Global Human Rights Federation (GHRF), Persatuan Bekas Pelajar Sekolah Tamil Malaysia (PERTAMA), Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BoPiMaFo), Independent Coalition Of Natives (ICON) Sarawak, Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Rumpun Dayak Sabah, Persatuan Pembangunan Sosial Komuniti Sabah (BANGUN), Parti Bumi Kenyalang Sarawak, Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations, Persatuan Kebajikan Persaudaraan Sahabat Miri Sarawak, Persatuan Etnik Dayak Asal Sarawak, Gerempung Raban Dayak Kuching, Malaysia Chinese Educated Students Association, Centre for Education Excellence – Hindu Agamam Ani malaysia, MAJU, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan, and the Society for Kuching Urban Poor. — DayakDaily