What is happening in Gaza even as we speak is heartbreaking.
Many of us around the world are angry and in solidarity with the tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian men, women and children who are currently being exterminated in Gaza by a vicious and evil colonial power, Israel.
What is happening in that part of West Asia is nothing short of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Many in Malaysia feel the pain of the Palestinians and believe we need to do something.
But the recent debacle by the Ministry of Education about the role that schools should play in addressing this conflict indicates a need for us to think before we act.
Malaysian schoolchildren can’t be expected to instantly understand what has been happening in West Asia, especially in Gaza and all the Palestinian occupied territories, for more than a century.
Introducing a week of military mock-ups in schools, instilling hate, urging armed violence, is clearly not the right way to go about showing solidarity.
That region’s history is just not part of our schools’ curriculum. It is even doubtful that many of our schoolteachers understand the conflict, let alone [whether they] are qualified to talk to our children openly, fairly and critically about it.
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A week of solidarity, even with what seems to be hastily compiled guidelines, will not cut it.
If education is the aim, as it should be, our children must be taught fairly. They must be taught not only about this genocide but also taught fairly about what is happening in Myanmar, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Niger, Cuba, Ukraine, Syria and Sri Lanka, for example. They must be taught the substance of these conflicts.
Context is always crucial.
If we want to do this, let’s do it properly and focus on all cases of human rights violations and war/conflict crimes against humanity.
Then we prepare balanced discussion packs for our teachers to lead the discussions, focusing on human rights and respect for international law.
The irony is we don’t even teach our children about the UN system and international law. So, how can we discuss this protracted war in Palestine?
Despite the minister’s emotional defence of this unclear programme in Parliament, this has been an impulsive move.
Before they protest, children – and people generally – must understand what and why they are protesting. This is the task of education.
We must awaken them and help them understand, not indoctrinate them and certainly not fill our children with hate.
Hence, a week of solidarity without much preparation and with little planning will achieve little that is positive and provide very little understanding.
Our children deserve better. And so do the tens of thousands of Palestinians who are being murdered and facing a bleak future, if not virtual extermination. – Gerak