Safety of pri­vate re­li­gious schools un­der spot­light af­ter deadly blaze

Today - - HOT NEWS -

KUALA LUMPUR — The Is­lamic board­ing school de­stroyed in yes­ter­day morn­ing’s blaze did not have a fire exit, said the au­thor­i­ties, while adding that the fa­cil­ity was op­er­at­ing with­out a fire per­mit.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Ah­mad Zahid Hamidi also said that the school was not reg­is­tered with the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry.

Ur­ban Well­be­ing, Hous­ing and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Noh Omar said the op­er­a­tors of Pusat Tah­fiz Darul Qu­ran It­ti­faqiyah had sub­mit­ted plans that were dif­fer­ent from the school’s struc­ture.

“I was in­formed that the Fire De­part­ment re­ceived an ap­pli­ca­tion (for a per­mit) with ar­chi­tec­ture plans,” he said. “The Fire De­part­ment ... had yet to give their ap­proval (for) the CCC (Cer­tifi­cate of Com­ple­tion and Com­pli­ance). We have yet to give our ap­proval but the re­li­gious school be­gan op­er­at­ing.”

Mr Noh said the orig­i­nal plan sub­mit­ted by the school showed an “open area con­cept”, with two emer­gency stair­cases and no walls on the top floor. He noted that what he saw at the site was dif­fer­ent. “I went up­stairs just now and I saw that there was a wall sep­a­rat­ing the room (on the top floor) that should not ex­ist, ac­cord­ing to the orig­i­nal plans,” he said. “We will take ac­tion. If they (have bro­ken) the law, they should not be al­lowed to op­er­ate ... But this thing has al­ready hap­pened. It is done … It is bet­ter if we pre­vent them from re­cur­ring.”

There was only one door, which se­verely re­stricted es­cape routes. All win­dow grilles were locked in the build­ing as at least 23 peo­ple, mostly stu­dents, per­ished.

Un­reg­is­tered and pri­vate re­li­gious schools have mush­roomed and their fire safety mea­sures are a ma­jor con­cern for the au­thor­i­ties.

Mr Zahid said it was not the first time that such in­sti­tu­tions have not been reg­is­tered with the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry.

“We are quite ob­ser­vant. We know that, every two to three years, there are in­ci­dents of fires or in­ci­dents like this, in­ci­dents of struc­tures col­laps­ing in these schools,” he said.

The deputy pre­mier said that some re­li­gious schools have re­sisted the im­ple­men­ta­tion

Mean­while, Ke­lan­tan’s Fire and Res­cue De­part­ment has iden­ti­fied 17 re­li­gious schools that have not been reg­is­tered with the lo­cal re­li­gious author­ity. Apart from not be­ing reg­is­tered with the state Is­lamic Re­li­gious Coun­cil, these re­li­gious schools have also been cat­e­gorised as be­ing of high risk of catch­ing fire. The Tereng­ganu state gov­ern­ment has also in­structed all rel­e­vant agen­cies to in­spect and en­sure that all school build­ings, in­clud­ing tah­fiz and tu­ition cen­tres, meet safety re­quire­ments. of safety reg­u­la­tions for fear that these may lead to in­ter­fer­ence in their af­fairs.

“We do see that safety stan­dards at these schools are not com­plied with, as if they are be­ing stub­born and per­ceive that the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to in­ter­fere with their af­fairs,” he was quoted say­ing. “We are merely look­ing at the safety as­pects. It should not be seen as done un­der the name of power; the safety of the chil­dren and the war­dens and their lives should be the pri­or­ity here.”

He said that the gov­ern­ment will form a com­mit­tee im­me­di­ately to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter.

Na­tional In­sti­tute of Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health chair­man Lee Lam Thye said the in­ci­dent should serve as a les­son to all. He sug­gested that the gov­ern­ment com­pel every Is­lamic re­li­gious school to reg­is­ter with the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry or state gov­ern­ment. Once reg­is­tered, the gov­ern­ment should make it com­pul­sory for a com­pre­hen­sive safety au­dit at such schools and their fa­cil­i­ties, he said in a state­ment.

“The au­thor­i­ties which con­duct the au­dit check must iden­tify the safety level of the school, in­clud­ing fire haz­ards.” AGEN­CIES


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