JOHOR BARU: Schools should be a place to promote unity and reject any programme or activity that may lead to racial and religious discrimination, says Norliza Noh (pic).
The Johor Education, Information and Communications Committee chairman added that following the incident involving SMK Infant Jesus Convent Johor Baru, she has called up the Johor Education Department, the school’s principal and teachers as well as its Parent-Teacher Association.
"I wanted to hear for myself the issues related to the school’s programme, which was conducted with the involvement of Muslim students only.
"Through the information provided by the school and in line with the statement issued by the Education Ministry, the programme run by the school does not ignore and discriminate against the religion and race of the students," she added.
Norliza said this in a statement posted on her Facebook page here on Wednesday (January 25).
She called on all parties not to express their own opinions on social media because this can create a disharmonious atmosphere, especially in Johor.
"At the same time, I call on everyone, especially parents and the community, if there are any complaints involving schools and students, those complaints can be channelled to the authorities through channels or platforms that have been prepared by the ministry," she added.
Norliza said she upholds the decree made by Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar that no one should be excluded from any programme because of their religion or race.
"Therefore, the state government is committed to making schools a field to sow the spirit of unity and reject any programme or activity that may lead to racial and religious discrimination.
"The identity of Bangsa Johor itself is quite synonymous as a catalyst of enthusiasm to form harmony, understanding and tolerance between various races and religions in this state," she said.
On Tuesday (Jan 24), Sultan Ibrahim decreed that no one should be left out of any public programme because of their race or religion.
"If it is true that there was racial segregation, then action must be taken against the organisers," His Majesty said in reference to allegations that only Muslim students from an all-girls school were invited to an SPM workshop held in a hotel here.
"The same can also be said if it is found that these allegations are proven false and spread by irresponsible parties," said the Sultan.
The Ruler said issues that threaten communal harmony and unity amongst Johoreans must be handled swiftly by the authorities to deter rumour mongers from spreading confusion and hate.
"I don’t want my 'Bangsa Johor' to be confused and begin turning on each other. I cannot emphasise enough on the need for racial understanding, unity and tolerance.
"The Education Department must be quick to respond in these situations to prevent emotions and falsehoods from running wild.
"This is also a lesson to all parties who must deal swiftly and firmly to quell public dissatisfaction," said His Majesty to the Royal Press Office on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry, in a statement Wednesday, said that there was no discrimination involved in the SPM preparation workshop that was organised by the school.
It said the workshop was meant for all students regardless of race or religion and was planned to be held in two sessions.
"Initial investigations found that the workshop was one of the many initiatives of the relevant parties to ensure that students, regardless of race, were able to make the necessary preparations for the SPM exams.
"The first of the workshops was held earlier on Jan 19 and 20 in a hotel and involved some 30 SPM candidates who had failed their Bahasa Melayu and History subjects as well as those who received 'gagal-lulus' (fail-passed) in some other subjects.
"The workshop was held separately based on sessions to avoid disturbing candidates who were preparing for Chinese New Year.
"The ministry was informed that the follow-up session for other students was slated to be held between Jan 26 and 27 at the same hotel," the ministry said.
However, it added that there was a need for the school to improve communications to prevent such an incident from happening again.
Tweets of the school allegedly organising an SPM workshop only for Muslim students went viral and gathered strong reactions from the public.
"The school held a two-day, one-night SPM workshop for only Muslim students at a hotel, saying that it will only involve religious-related subjects.
"However, it turned out to be a comprehensive workshop covering subjects such as Chemistry, Additional Mathematics and other subjects," said Twitter user @sangria200 in a thread on Twitter.
Her tweets have since made the rounds on social media, gathering over 800 retweets and over 1,000 likes in less than 24 hours.
She also shared some screencaps of a conversation in the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) WhatsApp chat group, the settings of which she said were later changed to allow only admins to post and to ensure disappearing messages.
In the screencap, the principal was also seen responding to parents who questioned the programme, saying there was no attempt to segregate students or to abandon them.