Don’t resist inquiry into schools, G25 tells religious bodies

Rescue workers gather outside the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2017. ― Reuters pic
Rescue workers gather outside the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah religious school in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 2017. ― Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 ― Religious authorities should not resist an open inquiry into how religious schools are run, G25 said after a fire at a tahfiz school here killed 23 yesterday.

In a statement, the group of senior retired civil servants and eminent personalities said all parties should support efforts to form a committee to investigate the fire that broke out at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah at 5.40am yesterday, which killed 21 students aged 11 to 17 and two wardens.

The tragedy once again raised concerns about safety standards at religious schools, with Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi pointing out that over 200 fires had happened at such schools since 2015.

“Malaysia should not exempt religious schools from the principles of common justice or hide the underlying problems of religious education from public scrutiny as this will only lead to similar tragedies recurring in the future,” G25 said.

Zahid yesterday called for a special committee to investigate the fire at the tahfiz school in Kampung Datuk Keramat here. The Star reported last month that according to Fire and Rescue Department statistics, 211 fires occurred at tahfiz schools nationwide between 2015 and 2017.

G25 also offered the services of some its members to sit on the committee that will investigate yesterday’s tragedy further.

“G25 has among its members retired senior judges, civil servants and diplomats who can volunteer to sit as members of the committee,” it said.

“They are willing to sacrifice their time to assist in finding out how and why the tragedy happened and the lessons that can be learnt so that the religious department in all states can exercise proper regulatory control over these private religious schools,” it added.

Over 600 tahfiz schools in the country are reportedly privately run and not registered with state religious authorities, who govern over them.

“With a problem of such magnitude these schools whether they come under the purview of the Ministry of Education or otherwise should as a minimum be immediately subjected to an inspection on the fire and safety standards before another tragedy occurs,” G25 said.

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