|© UNICEF Malaysia/2009/Ham|
|From left: UNICEF Representative in Malaysia Youssouf Oomar, Faezlan bin Angah, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah bt Mohd Ali and Emi Eriza binti Jasut at the launch of 'The State of the World's Children' report.|
By Ineza Roussille
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 25 January 2010 – In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNICEF launched the ‘State of the World’s Children Special Edition’ report in Malaysia.
The launch, which was officiated by the country's former First Lady Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah and her daughter, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, kicked off a one-day forum on the theme, ‘Education for Every Child.’ It brought together around 200 policy makers, representatives of the corporate, media and civil-society sectors, religious leaders and children.
Faezlan B. Angah, 15, from Malaysia’s Orang Asli indigenous minority, described the impact education has had on his life.
“When I was little, I had many questions to ask,” said Faezlan, who promotes the importance of education among his peers in his hometown of Perak. “When I went to school, I learned something, and now I know the answer. It changes what I think about life,” he added.
Consensus on child rights
The forum raised some key questions about whether education was benefitting all children in Malaysia. Dialogues revolved around access to education for rural, indigenous and undocumented children, especially in the current economic crisis. Socio-economic disparities meant that some children were left behind and were in danger of being exposed to drugs and crime.
Dr. Hartini Zainudin of the Nur Salam Children’s Crisis Centre told the conference that the centre was seeing a huge influx because of the economic crisis. Ms. Mahathir, who is a blogger and activist, stressed the need to provide for undocumented children.
“Just because they do not have citizenship ... doesn’t mean that they’re not human beings who also need good health care and good education, and it’s our moral responsibility to ensure that they have that,” she said.
By the end of the day, there was a consensus that every child, regardless of his or her status or background, must have access to quality education. The participants went away motivated, with a deeper understanding of the CRC.