Have we failed our children?

It is the adults’ responsibility to guide, nurture and safeguard the young souls and be their protectors and guardians

pic by TMR FILE

THERE should be no acceptable excuse for adults who fail to protect children, be it at school or home. It is their duty to ensure that young and innocent children are always safe. It is the adults’ responsibility to guide, nurture and safeguard these young souls and be their protectors and guardians.

But the many tear-jerking news reports involving children only suggest that our society as a whole or in pockets have failed to protect these innocent and unsuspecting kids.

The country was saddened by the death of the seven-year-old pupil Muhammad Aimin Nurul Amin at an unregistered tahfiz in Pahang last week. The tragedy has put the spotlight on the management of tahfiz and religious schools in the country.

Similar tragedies in the past, including the multiple deaths at Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah two years ago, angered level-headed Malaysians who can’t fathom the loss of innocent lives due to the irresponsible act of a few.

What irked most people are the fact that some of these schools remain unregulated and continue to operate without proper supervision. The school complexes are structurally unsafe and some can even be a death trap.

Another pertinent question that is often asked — how can parents send their children to an unregistered institution when there are 4,000 legally registered schools in the country? Government’s figure showed that there are about 200 unregistered schools in the country.

Muhammad Aimin’s death is a tragic lost that no parents should go through. A thorough investigation must be carried out and the perpetrators must be brought to justice or the late Muhammad Aimin’s death will be in vain.

We must make sure that this will be the last. All efforts must be channelled towards a lasting resolution. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said parents who send their children to unregistered schools could face legal action.

However, it is still unclear how this will be carried out, legally. But he was on the mark when he said parents should not treat tahfiz as a dumping ground.

These religious schools have been the preferred destinations for troubled children. Parents send their problematic children to these schools, hoping they will be “reformed” under the tutelage of the “ustaz”.

Others use these institutions to absolve their own failures in raising the children. A section of the community uses religious institutions as the substitute for their children’s failing in “the worldly schools”.

But the issues and problems run deeper and will require more than just a simple slap on the wrist.

Sending troubled children away to tahfiz will only alienate them, fan the feeling of rejection, spark anger, disgust and hatred — all the social behaviours which will leave these children scarred in their adult lives.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia child commissioner Prof Datuk Dr Noor Aziah Mohd Awal urged all religious schools, whether they are registered or not, to be monitored closely.

It is not a new practice, she said, as other registered schools are being supervised by the Education Ministry.

Such monitoring is critical to stop the rise of bullying and child abuse cases, as well as sexual assaults on the students by those who run, manage and operate these tahfiz.

Based on the Social Welfare Department and United Nations Children’s Fund Malaysia figure, 14 such cases are reported daily. But the actual figure is higher as many similar cases are shielded by the schools and parents, largely to protect certain individuals from shame.

It is the right of all children to enjoy a safe, secure and conducive environment for them to live up to their potential. And it is our responsibility to deliver this right.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.