LETTER | As expressed by Sarawak’s Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister recently, the decision by the Education Ministry to allow stateless children rights to education starting this year is a welcome move.
Previously, such children were only allowed into primary schools based on kindness or discretion of headmasters but they were not allowed to continue into secondary education levels.
This new initiative by the Education Ministry will enable all such stateless children to have at least some level of education to enable them to become useful and productive when they are older.
The issue of stateless children had always been a sensitive issue in many communities in Malaysia and particularly so in Sarawak due to the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural aspects of the people here.
The usual reasons for stateless children stem from parents not registering marriages to unwed mothers, mothers or fathers of different nationalities to cross-border-born children and the list goes on.
The common theme of these stateless children is that they have since stayed in the state and reached school-going age while still waiting for their registration details to be sorted out by the various ministries involved.
Many were denied entry into schools due to lack of proper documents and those who come from marginal families grew up without receiving any formal education.
Unfortunately, many of these uneducated adults later end up with a bleak future as they are unable to secure jobs.
The right to education is a universal right and no child should be deprived of such due to circumstances beyond their control.
Mistakes of their parents or political, economic and religious reasons could have played a role in stateless children predicaments but nevertheless, they do deserve the right to education.
Societies cannot afford to have groups of people who are stateless, ignorant and sidelined due to hosts of reasons as ultimately, these people are in their area of power or influence; it is the responsibility of authorities in such areas to provide them with the means to live meaningful and productive lives.
Can any of these communities, where stateless people are found to be forsaken, claim to be righteous, pious or considerate when such blatant rights of some are completely ignored and set aside?
We are the human race and there’s only one race; we must continue to be considerate to the less fortunate in our societies, especially those through no fault of theirs, like stateless children, have to suffer because of the mistakes of some.
We should always practice the adage of ‘live and let live’ as we are all sharing this one planet and currently the only one we all know of.
Afterall, we all came into being through sheer luck in the first phase of our lives!
The writer is the Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs director, an entrepreneur and author.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.