Prof Noor Aziah Mohd Awal, the children’s commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), is concerned by the death of a seven-year-old boy in a tahfiz (religious) school in Pahang – which is yet another case in a series of tragedies related to tahfiz school students.
It is incumbent upon everyone to ensure that all children are protected from violence and abuse.
It is also the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and state religious authorities to ensure that no children are abused in schools and other institutions of learning, which must be safe spaces in which the rights of children are fully protected and respected.
In registering, tahfiz schools and indeed all other unregistered schools can be monitored – not only for the quality of education but also for the safety and security of children through regulation.
The monitoring of religious schools is not something that is unprecedented as religious national secondary schools (SMKA) and government-assisted religious schools (SABK) are registered with the Ministry of Education.
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The children’s commissioner is encouraged by the call by the education minister earlier this year urging all tahfiz schools across the country to register with the Ministry of Education. More than 4,000 Islamic religious schools have been registered with the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), with an estimated 200 not yet registered.
Nevertheless, she wishes to reaffirm that all schools, whether religious in nature or otherwise, must be registered with the government, as education falls under the purview of the federal government as provided for by item 13 of the federal list in the ninth schedule of the Federal Constitution.
The children’s commissioner hopes that a thorough investigation will made in the death of the seven-year-old tahfiz student, and she strongly advocates for tahfiz schools to be regulated by the federal and state government to prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Professor Dato’ Noor Aziah Hj Mohd Awai is the children’s commissioner of Suhakam.