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New school gives vulnerable children hope for a bright future

Girl at Kg Numbak Education Centre
© UNICEF Malaysia/2010/Anuar
A young girl learns to read and write at the Kg Numbak Education Centre in Sabah. The school provides access to basic education for 300 refugee and undocumented children.

KG. NUMBAK, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, 26 March 2011 – Together with the Ministry of Education, the Malaysia Teachers’ Foundation and the Sabah Task Force, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today launched an education centre in the coastal village of Kg Numbak, Kota Kinabalu to provide basic education for 300 refugee and undocumented children in the village.

Some 600 people, mostly from the community, participated in the celebrations to mark the beginnings of a bright future for these vulnerable children living 7.5km from Kota Kinabalu. Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Education Dr. Haji Mohd Puad bin Zarkashi officiated the event together with Malaysia Teachers’ Foundation chair Tan Sri Dato' Haji Alimuddin bin Haji Mohd Dom, Sabah Task Force Director Datuk Misri bin Barham and UNICEF Representative to Malaysia, Mr. Hans Olsen.

“We are delighted to be part of this unique partnership with the Government, civil society and the community to uphold the right to education for the children of Kg. Numbak,” said Mr. Olsen. “This is an important milestone for all of us, and one which we hope will serve as a model that can be replicated to meet the needs of many other undocumented children in Malaysia.”

Vulnerable to exploitation

While Malaysia has made remarkable national progress in realising universal primary education for her children, a 2009 study by the Ministry of Education’s Educational Planning and Research Division (EPRD) discovered that 43,973 undocumented children aged 7 to 17 years old were not benefitting from schooling.

UNICEF’s global experience shows that out-of-school children are generally at greater risk of exploitation and violence. Many are forced out on the streets at a much younger age to earn a living, and often experience violence and abuse. Working on the streets, these children may also be easily lured into gangs, and exploited by unscrupulous adults for sex work and drug peddling.

“Children who cannot read and write have far fewer opportunities to seek self-improvement, especially in the increasingly modernised and globalised world they live in today,” added Mr. Olsen. “Without an education, they are robbed of the opportunity to achieve their full potential, and everyone loses in the end.”

Breaking the cycle of poverty

The Kg Numbak Education Centre, a first of its kind initiative by UNICEF in collaboration with Malaysia’s Ministry of Education, the Sabah Special Task Force and the Teacher Foundation, will follow the national curriculum, taught by four volunteer teachers from the community. Reading and writing will be emphasised in the initial stages, while vocational courses such as sewing, carpentry and boat making will be introduced later.

In addition to providing education for children, there are also plans to make use of the Centre to provide adult classes, especially for women. The move is in line with the Education for All Goal to achieve a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015 and ensure equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.

“Education is not just a human right, it is also helps to end the cycle of poverty for children, their families and their communities,” Mr. Olsen stressed. “Education is the stepping stone to healthier and more productive communities necessary for successful nation building.”


Right to Education & Education for All
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) upholds that all children have the right to primary education. Education is critical for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals as it raises economic productivity, reduces poverty, lowers infant and maternal mortality, helps improve nutritional status and health, in part by teaching life skills, such as protection against HIV. Education for All, a movement initiated in 1990, emphasises the need to provide access to education for traditionally marginalised groups, including girls and women, indigenous populations and remote rural groups, street children, migrants, people with disabilities etc.

Primary Education: Situation In Malaysia
Malaysia is on the way to achieving universal primary education for both her girls and boys, with 99 per cent of children enrolled in school. Enrolment rate of girls is equal to that of boys. Literacy rates among the young are also largely universal at 98 per cent for both girls and boys aged 15 to 24 years old. The adult literacy rate is 92 per cent. Despite Malaysia’s success, challenges remain in providing education access to hard-to-reach, marginalised and vulnerable children as well for improving the quality of primary education including to ensure the relevance of curriculum. Targeted attention is also needed to ensure Orang Asli, indigenous, stateless, refugee and migrant children benefit from learning.

Ministry of Education, Malaysia
The Ministry of Education aims to further develop the potential of individuals in a holistic and integrated manner, so as to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God. For more information, visit:

Sabah Special Task Force, Malaysia
The Sabah Special Task Force manages issues relating to Foreign Immigrants Affairs (PLN) in Sabah and the Federal Territory of Labuan in line with national security and to maintain harmony and prosperity. For more information, visit:

Teachers Foundation Malaysia
The main objective of Yayasan Guru Malaysia Berhad (YGMB) is to improve welfare of the educators’ and to uphold the value of the teaching profession. For more information, visit:

For more information, please contact:

Indra Kumari Nadchatram
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel +6012 292 6872,

Faradiza Zahri
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel +6012 438 9538,



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