News / Asia

Undocumented Children in Malaysia Barred From School

Two-year-old Arfaisal Marsaleh, a stateless child, holds on to his mother in a slum village in Kinarut, in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island (file photo).
Two-year-old Arfaisal Marsaleh, a stateless child, holds on to his mother in a slum village in Kinarut, in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island (file photo).

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant children in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo Island are not being allowed to go to school.  Efforts to change this are under way.  Early this year, a community-built education center at a refugee village was inaugurated for 300 undocumented children who previously had never attended school. With support from UNICEF and the Malaysian government, officials hope to replicate this model in other deprived communities.

Traveling to the seaside refugee village of Kampung Numbak, north of Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, is a gut-churning experience.  

The tin-roofed wooden houses in this fishing community are built on stilts to prevent them from being submerged by water.  Low tide waters reveal a sea of garbage.  Wooden bridges, some with rotten and missing planks, connect the village streets.  Small stores selling a range of items, from soft drinks and basic food to clothing and electronic wares, line the streets.

At the end of the main road is the Kampung Numbak Education Center, a simple structure built on stilts.

“In this school, there are only children that are undocumented, said U.N. Children’s Fund Representative to Malaysia Hans Olsen. "There were parents who wanted to have their children here in this school, which happened to be in the middle of the community, but they were not admitted if they had no documents.” 

Stateless children

Kampung Numbak’s population of some 8,000 people is a mix of Malay nationals, refugee and undocumented migrant workers, mainly from the Philippines.  Hans Olsen says Malay children can go to government-run schools, but children without birth certificates or other proof of legal residency are not given the same privilege.

“The children that are here had not been to school before," he said.  "They were left behind when the other children went to the government schools.  So, when you come into the classroom here in Kampung Numbak, the children you see at their desks, before the beginning of this year, they did not have access to school at all, none of them had gone to school before.”  

A 2009 study by the Ministry of Education found nearly 44,000 undocumented children between the ages of seven and 17 were not enrolled in school.  This figure is believed to be grossly underestimated. 

Exploitation


Children who do not go to school are easily exploited.  Many are forced to perform child labor.  Others wind up on the streets, become involved with drugs, petty crime and are exposed to abuse.

UNICEF Monitoring and Educational Officer Nur Anuar Muthalib says education may not be a panacea.  But, it can help children avoid many of these pitfalls.

“From our view, children are children," said the officer.  "Their place is in school.  It is not the children’s fault that they are in our country and not able to attend schooling.  It is their right.”

Teachers' committment

There are more than 40 children in this classroom.  The teachers are young, generally inexperienced, and poorly paid.  But, they take their jobs seriously and are committed to helping their pupils learn.  One teacher, Amira Binti Asen Abdullah, says she is proud of the progress her students have made in such a short time.

“Before this, the children just hang around playing," she said.  "After this, because they have this school, they come here every day and study.  Sometimes in the evening, they also come here. So, the students ... very, very love to come to school every day.”  

Students agree.  Before coming to this school, 11-year-old Normida says she could not read or count.  Now, she likes going to school.  She especially likes Islamic studies and wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Thirteen-year-old Azali has never attended school.  He is excited to be in class.  He says he is learning a lot and wants to become a soldier.

Twelve-year-old Benhar has greater ambitions. He wants to be a money-maker. He wants to be a millionaire.  

UNICEF and Malay officials say their aim is to replicate the Kampung Numbak model in other deprived communities in Sabah.  Their next project, they say, will be to construct a school for an estimated 1,000 undocumented children in the refugee village of Kampung Bahagia, where the existing building is in a deplorable state.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs