Without education the future is dark, say children
Young voices call for greater protection of children’s right to education at the launch of UNICEF’s flagship report
KUALA LUMPUR, 20 November 2009 – Children's desire for quality formal education to carve a brighter future for themselves was given prominence at the 'Education for Every Child' forum today, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Malaysian Bar Council to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"Without education, the future is dark," echoed 13-year old Orang Asli child Faezlan bin Angah who considers himself lucky for having parents who believe in education.
Faezlan and Emi Eriza binti Jasut, a 16-year old Orang Asli girl presented copies of UNICEF's 'State of the World's Children' special edition report on child rights to Tun Dr Siti Hasmah bt Mohd Ali and social advocate Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, wife and daughter of 'modern Malaysia's architect', former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
One child left behind, is one too many
“In Malaysia, children’s basic needs are well-attended to, thanks to the delivery of social services that have led to near-universal primary school enrolment, high immunisation levels against most major vaccine-preventable diseases, and a safety net of anti-poverty measures,” said Tun Dr Siti Hasmah in her keynote address at the launch.
“However, if there is even one child left behind, it is one child too many. For every child we leave behind, we leave generations more vulnerable to poverty, exploitation and lost opportunities,” she added.
Drawings and stories from a child with disabilities, undocumented, refugee and street children were also presented together with the works of the two Orang Asli children to illustrate educational disparities as a living reality for many children in Malaysia.
Helping children claim their rights
Complementing the children’s works were a video news report on education for Penan children as well as a guest essay by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Hj. Mohd Yassin on Malaysia's journey in education. The essay, one of thirteen in UNICEF’s global report, reiterates the Government's commitment to reduce the gap in education access and quality among children in different communities.
“The Forum today is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of what we have left to do. We have a unique international Convention, already ratified by the Malaysian Government, which provides us with an essential foundation to play our part in helping children to claim their right to universal, quality education,” said UNICEF Representative to Malaysia Mr Youssouf Oomar, who is also UNICEF’s Special Representative to Brunei.
The challenges faced by children living in poverty, urban slums and those who are undocumented, were highlighted as issues that require urgent attention, not only by the Government but by other stakeholders including international agencies, civil society, the media and the public.
Educating parents, educating children
“Children who cannot access education are robbed of the opportunity to achieve their full potential. As stakeholders in our children’s future, it is our responsibility to give children what is rightfully theirs and equip them to play a leading role in their future,” said President of the Malaysian Bar, Mr Ragunath Kesavan.
The Forum brought together some 150 representatives from Government, civil society, UN agencies, the corporate sector and the media to recommend solutions and make a commitment towards ensuring that children of different communities in Malaysia enjoy equal access to education of quality and relevance. Children and young people were given a central role in all discussions to ensure their views were represented and taken into account.
Emi Eryza, from the Temuan sub-ethnic group, and Faezlan, from the Semai sub-ethnic group, shared their thoughts on the importance of educating parents from the Orang Asli community.
“Without education, the Orang Asli people will stay poor and continue to lack education for generations to come,” said Faezlan.
Video: Penan Education
20 November 2009:
Programs to promote education for indigenous people in Malaysia.
Education for every child
Education in Malaysia: Real Lives