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A Striking Paradox: Malaysia’s Stance On Refugee Children’s Education

A Striking Paradox: Malaysia’s Stance On Refugee Children’s Education

Dr Khalid expressed concern about the exclusion of refugee children from public schools in Malaysia, a policy that starkly contrasts with the nation’s humanitarian efforts

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In a recent and thought-provoking statement, Dr Muhammad Khalid, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS), highlighted a critical discrepancy in Malaysia’s policy towards refugee children’s education.

Dr Khalid expressed concern about the exclusion of refugee children from public schools in Malaysia, a policy that starkly contrasts with the nation’s humanitarian efforts.

He further pointed out the irony of tens of thousands of Malaysians demonstrating against the mistreatment of Palestinians, while refugee children residing in Malaysia are not permitted to attend public schools, and their parents are not allowed to work.

This dichotomy seems to underscore a disconnect between public sentiment and policy implementation.

Dr Khalid expressed his opinion frankly, stating, “You want to help the Palestinians, make sure the kids can go to school, but by doing this, we must also allow refugees from other countries (to receive an education here). Otherwise, we are a bunch of hypocrites.”

At the same time, netizens pointed out there have been instances where providing scholarships to Palestinian students has faced opposition from certain individuals who claim that it is unnecessary or unfair.

Some have even raised concerns about assisting Rohingya refugees, suggesting that there may be other groups more deserving of support.

Others said it would be better to address the issue of the influx of foreign residents in Malaysia first before considering other matters, including undocumented immigrants.

These differing opinions highlight the complexities and challenges of distributing aid and resources in a way that satisfies everyone.

Rohingya Children in Malaysia Left Behind

For years, Malaysia has received recognition and praise for its commendable support of Palestinian refugees.

One significant aspect of this support is providing free education to Palestinian children.

By offering this opportunity, Malaysia has demonstrated its commitment to assisting and empowering the Palestinian community in pursuing education and a better future.

However, the same privileges have not been extended to Rohingya children, who are part of one of the most persecuted communities in the world.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports over 178,610 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia as of August 2023.

The majority are from Myanmar, including over 100,000 Rohingyas.

Despite this, Rohingya children in Malaysia often face significant barriers to education.

A report by Human Rights Watch highlighted that many Rohingya children are unable to access formal education due to legal and financial constraints.

By drawing attention to the disparity in how Malaysia treats Palestinian and Rohingya refugees, Malaysians are prompted to reflect on the inconsistency within their humanitarian endeavours.

This contrast raises important questions about the equitable treatment of all refugee communities and encourages a critical examination of the nation’s commitment to upholding humanitarian principles.

The situation is exacerbated by the presence of numerous social media posts that portray the Rohingyas in Malaysia in a negative manner.

@adn.apperal Ye lah den rakyat malaysia tak boleh membebel ye x… SYABAS ‼️ #fypシ #daddydon431 #tiktok #tiktokmalaysia #tiktokers #apperal #jerseyhighquality #apparel ♬ original sound – DADDY.DON431 – DADDY DON 431

Pursuing Equality: Examining Education Rights for Refugee Children

This conversation raises crucial questions about fairness, empathy, and the universality of human rights.

If education is a fundamental right – as stated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights – should it not be extended to all children, regardless of their refugee status?

As Malaysia grapples with these issues, Dr. Khalid’s comments serve as a timely reminder of the importance of consistent humanitarian values.

It is a call to action for Malaysians and the global community alike to ensure that all children – Palestinian, Rohingya, or otherwise – are afforded the same rights and opportunities.


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