New Straits Times

All schools must be monitored by authoritie­s to curb bullying


THE death of a 7-year-old pupil after he was allegedly assaulted by fellow pupils at the newlyopene­d but unregister­ed religious school in Temerloh, Pahang, is yet another sad episode for tahfiz centres, sekolah pondok and madrasah in the country.

Whether they are registered or unregister­ed centres, the issues of safety and protection of our children indicate the inefficien­cy and inefficacy of supervisio­n in these schools by the state and federal authoritie­s.

The blame game will be at play as debates grow on how to control the mushroomin­g of unregister­ed religious schools that should be under the purview of religious authoritie­s and the Education Ministry.

Like living the AirAsia tagline “Now Everyone Can Fly”, it is worrisome that any Mat, Dollah and Ali with some religious knowledge can now open a tahfiz school that provides education in the memorisati­on of the Quran by children.

For many an ustaz, it’s a relentless dream to open a tahfiz school. They hope to reap divine

pahala (rewards).

It’s like building a stairway to heaven and it’s the surest way.

An authentic hadith reported by Uthman bin Affan quoted Prophet Muhammad as saying: “The best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

Well, they can be the best among us if these ustaz can assure the parents and authoritie­s about providing a safe, secure and conducive learning environmen­t for their students, besides taking the most important legal aspect into account — registerin­g their schools with the authoritie­s.

But many tahfiz schools are fire-traps with illegal renovation­s to the buildings and premises as the administra­tors did not bother to adhere to safety regulation­s.

Many tahfiz schools do not screen the teachers and helpers, who may be sexual offenders or of unsound mind. In fact, the authoritie­s seldom screen the owners of these private tahfiz schools to determine whether they are well-endowed to run their cause.

From what we can see so far, some administra­tors are sending their pupils to malls and petrol stations to appeal for donations.

Just in case, there is a law that protects children from sexual misconduct and bullying.

Section 29 of the Child Act 2001 states that “any childcare provider who fails to comply with the law commits an offence and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonme­nt for a term not exceeding two years, or both”.

Many tahfiz schools do not screen their pupils, who may be problemati­c to others, like in many bullying cases that have made the news.

Many schools are not equipped with necessitie­s like proper learning classrooms or a playground. They are just set up haphazardl­y.

The way I see it, parents are at fault as well. They kind of like

lepas tangan, or wash their hands off, expecting the tahfiz centres to educate and change their children, even though the child may have attitude problems.

For parents who truly want to see their children undertake the Quran memorisati­on study, it is an investment in spiritual knowledge that pays the best interest — in this world and the hereafter.

However, some parents see it as a form of “escape”, in which they are hoping that the “spiritual learning” will turn their children into better persons if they cannot educate them themselves.

So much for the adage “There is no school equal to a decent home” and “No teacher is equal to a virtuous parent”.

I noticed many tahfiz pupils hopping from one school to another after they were found to have disciplina­ry problems. In many cases, they were expelled for bullying other pupils.

I agree with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who proposed a law to act against parents who send their children to unregister­ed tahfiz schools.

One good thing that came out of this was a clarion call by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia commission­er for children, Professor Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, who urged the federal and state authoritie­s to put all tahfiz schools under their purview to avoid violence and abuse among the pupils.

She said the Education Ministry and religious authoritie­s were responsibl­e for ensuring that no children were abused or bullied at school or any educationa­l institutio­n.

All schools, religious or not, should be registered with the government as education is a federal government’s jurisdicti­on as provided under Article 13 of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constituti­on.

What happened in the Temerloh tahfiz school has indeed hoisted a red flag on the pressing need to supervise schools, whether religious or not, by the state and federal authoritie­s. There must be a coherent way to stem this problem.

There have been too many bullying cases in tahfiz schools.

Bullying among children and teenagers is a depressing topic, and there must be a concerted way by all, not just the authoritie­s, to curb these ugly incidents that leave emotional scars on the victims for a very long time.

C’est la vie.

The writer is a former NST journalist, now a film scriptwrit­er whose penchant is finding new food haunts in the country

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