Right to universal education — Macsa

SEPTEMBER 8 — In conjunction with the 52nd International Literacy Day, the Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the UPR Process (Macsa) wishes to remind our country’s leaders, influencers and the general public of the current status of adult literacy and learning.

According to the Adult and Youth Literacy: National Regional and Global Trends 1985-2015 report released by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), Malaysia’s literacy rate stands at 95.4 per cent, based on a census conducted last in 2010.

It is an notable feat considering that based on prior census conducted in the year 2000, our literacy rate was marked at 92 per cent. The increment clearly shows that our education policy is successful in advancing the literacy rate of Malaysian adult and youth.

A literate child makes an informed adult

While this achievement is notable, however, there are still many areas for improvement. The positive census result precludes vulnerable parties in the communities in gauging whether the education that has benefited to the majority of Malaysians is also enjoyed within the vulnerable communities.

While it has given its commitment to the 17 goals annunciated under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, however, Malaysia has not adopted universal education for all. Citizenship is still a requirement to enter the national school system and this has restricted many stateless, migrant and refugees children from benefiting elementary education.

Based on the data presented in the Parliament in 2016, there are 290,437 stateless children, while there are 34,600 refugee children in Malaysia. Without the opportunity for elementary education, many of these children are left in a vulnerable position, where they are often socially and economically exploited.

In most cases, they are completely deprived of education, while in rare instances most fortunate of them are given some kind of elementary education with assistance from various civil society organisations.

Education is the only mechanism for a given society to adopt in order to better themselves. Depriving a community within a larger society of their right to education is a violation of human rights within the context of social, economic and cultural rights.

In order for Malaysia to maintain its outstanding human rights record, Malaysia must commit itself to ensure that all children within its territories are given access to education. Education and literacy are integral elements in ensuring that the adult and youth of our global community have the proper tool to combat against inequalities.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights maintains that education is targeted towards the full development of the human personality in strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Whereas Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights state that the aim of education is to enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, as well as to promote understanding, tolerance and global friendship.

Under Convention against Discrimination in Education, particular care must be given to the types and levels of education, and includes access to education, the standard and quality of education, and the conditions under which it is given.

As a state member of Convention on the Rights of the Child, Malaysia has the obligation to recognise the right of all children within its territories to education.

Championing the right to education for the stateless children in East Sabah through its various members, Macsa works towards advocating for the stateless and refugee children’s rights to universal and free education.

In its Joint Submission Stakeholders Information for the UPR Process 2018, Macsa has reported on the position of the stateless communities in Malaysia and recommended for the state to observe the principles of international humanitarian law in regards to according the stateless communities access to education and healthcare.

In collaboration with some of its 52 present members, among which are Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra), Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs (ACCIN), CONCERN (Coalition of Sabah Islamic NGOs), the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (Wafiq) and Persatuan Kebajikan Bajaulaut, Semporna Sabah (Perkebal), in July-August 2018, Macsa has sent a delegation to East Sabah to evaluate the current state of the NGO-based free schools provided for the stateless children there.

Macsa delegation visited fur out of the seven Pusat Pembangunan Minda Insani (PPMI) established by Haluan Sabah, a member of CONCERN. Macsa is humbled by the commitment and perseverance of those maintaining these charity schools.

While the accomplishments of these schools are impressive and profound, there are still many ways that the government as well as the Malaysian public can assist to better the condition in these schools. Among the issues observed by the delegation are the lack of proper teaching and learning tools, infrastructures as well as nutritious foodplan for the students.

Recognising the need to systematic address these issues, in October, Macsa will send a team of activists to deliver learning and reading materials to PPMI Kg Tagupi Laut, District of Tambisan, Lahad Datu Sabah.

The team is also entrusted to conduct training sessions for the teaching assistants at the PPMI. Macsa believes that with proper learning culture, the stateless community will be able to contribute more socially, economically and culturally.

Macsa is organising #TagupiMembaca campaign which is coordinated by Fatihah Jamhari, head of Legal and Human Rights Bureau, Wafiq. To make any contribution, please contact her via m.me/WAFIQMALAYSIA.

Malaysia’s measurement of success

A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. Our country cannot move as a progressive society while leaving those in the need behind.

Education is the only key to allow those within our territories to participate intelligently towards a peaceful co-existence. Hence it is vital that we look at educating children while ensuring literacy of adults as significant ingredient in safeguarding global peace.

We must stand united to ensure the policies of our country inclusively benefit all.

Entitlement of elementary education must be recognised as a basic human rights.

* Joint statement by Azril Mohd Amin, chief executive of Centhra and chairperson of Macsa; and Associate Professor Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, president of Wafiq and co-chairperson of Macsa.

** Macsa is a coalition of organisations with the aim to advocate human rights.

*** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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