Don’t leave stateless people hanging


RECENTLY, I read news reports saying that the Education Ministry will implement a “Zero Reject Policy” towards the enrolment of stateless children in local schools. I hope that every stateless child out there will be given a chance to get an education. I do believe that educating them is the best investment for this country’s future and for them. Everyone has the right to education.

Statelessness in Malaysia is like a hole in the hull of a big ship that is letting in water. Those who own the ship should patch the hole, not just pump the water out of the ship. A holistic policy is what we need right now to solve this issue. The ship will be filled with water if you ignore the urgency of patching the leak.

I came across this comment on Facebook: “Why should we pay taxes to fund non-citizens? We are not a charitable organisation. Being a taxpayer, I am not that generous.”

As I am a stateless person who has managed to complete Form Six (by registering myself through the foreigners’ channel), let me enlighten those with the similar mindset: We, the stateless students enrolled in government schools, have to pay RM240 a year to the District Education Office. We cannot use the textbook loan scheme, which means we cannot borrow textbooks. And we do pay taxes, such as GST before and now, SST. We do contribute to the country’s development. We are not scoring any free education here.

Someone even accused stateless students of wasting school resources. I remember someone sarcastically asking me, “Which existed first? You or your parents’ marriage certificate?” Am I not a human being although I was born out of wedlock? Am I not entitled to basic human rights?

I was born here in Malaysia, I have never set foot on another country’s soil. I’ve spent my entire life living a Malaysian life. I could’ve missed many opportunities due to being stateless. I could’ve missed my chance to pursue a tertiary education. I certainly cannot apply for a PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund) loan. Should I be considered a foreigner just to further my studies – this would mean the tuition fees are more expensive – when I have no foreign citizenship?

I quote these next few lines from the chapter “Education In Limbo: The Plight Of Stateless Children” in the book Principles And Policies: DAP’s Prescription For Malaysia (2018) written by Teo Nie Ching: “If we can give citizenship to foreigners, why can’t we grant citizenship to the children of our own Malaysian citizens, based on humanitarian grounds?”

Also, “The government should immediately simplify the process of granting citizenship to these stateless children, because they are children of Malaysian citizens.”

And, “Every child is precious, including those without citizenship. We have the power to change their destinies.”

I am grateful to all who have helped me so far on my “Journey to Green”. Much thanks to my alma mater (SMJK Ayer Tawar) and its educators who have equipped me with knowledge. Though I have not reached the end of the road, I do appreciate the help.

WONG YEW LEE

Ayer Tawar, Perak

letters , stateless children , education