New Straits Times
ʻ DON’T PUNISH PARENTS ʼ
EDUCATION activists say penalising those who send their children to unregistered tahfiz schools does not address the root of the problem.
PROMOTING safety in tahfiz (religious) schools should be next on the government’s education agenda.
Universiti Malaya’s Art and Social Sciences Faculty Associate Professor Dr Mohd Awang Idris said penalising the parents for sending their children to unregistered tahfiz schools would only create other issues.
“I think we need to look at this from two perspectives. As policymakers, it is about the children’s safety and wellbeing.
“But from the family’s point of view, it is about the education system. In many cases, unregistered tahfiz schools provide an education at very low fees and some even operate for free. For low-income families, that’s an ideal setting.
“By penalising parents, we will only create new problems. The best way to deal with this is by promoting safety at tahfiz schools in our community. In the end, it boils down to which ones are safe and which ones are not.”
He also wondered why unregistered tahfiz schools could continue to operate.
“They should be shut down.” Child rights activist James Nayagam said shutting down unregistered tahfiz schools should be the first step, instead of penalising the parents.
“First, we need to shut down the unregistered tahfiz schools or get them to operate legally. I believe that they should come under the education department, or put under the supervision of a specific government department to allow the authorities to monitor the schools,” he told the New
“After the legalisation process, we need to monitor them by introducing a quality standard. At the moment, there is no proper mechanism on this and the schools operate independently.
“They are not being monitored by any departments on the curriculum and the pupils’ safety and well-being.”
Stating that there were about 2,000 unregistered tahfiz schools in the country, Nayagam urged the federal and state governments to work together to resolve the issue.
On the suggestion by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa that parents who sent their children to unregistered tahfiz schools could be subjected to legal action, Nayagam said proving the parents wrong would not be easy.
Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said parents would not have sent their children to an unregistered school if it did not exist in the first place.
“In many cases where parents had to send their children to such schools, it was because they had problems enrolling them in a registered school.”
She said parents who are facing problems with their children’s behaviour should undergo counselling instead of having the option to send them to an unregistered school.
“Many parents think that sending their misbehaving children to study religion will make them better persons. It is a sign that the parents are desperate for a solution, and perhaps, feel they have no other choice.
“They should not be criminalised for it, but instead, should receive better guidance,” she said.