KUALA LUMPUR, May 6 — In defending its call for protest, the Nationwide School Walkout Day (NSWD) Alliance said recent revelations of “rape jokes, sexual harassment and period spot checks” made it indefensible to stay apathetic to such unsafe practices in institutions of learning.
The NSWD Alliance, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, said its proposed “walkout day” this week was necessary to reflect this position and spread awareness on the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace movement.
“Participating in a movement aimed to eradicate unsafe practices in schools should not be regarded as a waste of time, but rather we need to realise that staying silent and allowing such practices to continue may be counterproductive to a child's education in the long run,” the organisers told the Malay Mail when contacted.
Last Friday, the NSWD Alliance announced its call to students and teachers to participate in the walkout by being absent from one school day or one class period, both online and offline, today and tomorrow.
“We hope to spark change and to advocate for immediate and long-term systemic reforms in schools with regards to how sexual harassment and other practices that result from rape culture is handled.
“While education on the matter is just as important, the walkout calls for students to exercise their right in demanding safer school environments and clearer frameworks in investigating allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct on school grounds,” it said.
The coalition said it was aware of possible repercussions to participants and has identified other methods of support for those unable or unwilling to join the walkout day, but who still want to back the movement.
It said supporters could wear a white ribbon with a red pattern, or include the hashtag #MakeSchoolASaferPlace as one’s profile picture or online meeting background in online classes.
“With support from academic staff, the protest can also be done within classrooms by halting normal schooling activities for one class period to educate students about sexual harassment and to stop normalising rape culture,” it added.
Last week, the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace began after 17-year-old Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam recounted an incident where her teacher had made a joke regarding rape in the classroom.
Ain has since shot to fame with numerous netizens and celebrities joining her in speaking out on similar experiences.
The teenager has also received backlash for her decision to post the matter online, including threats of rape from her schoolmates.
When contacted, however, Ain’s father, Saiful Nizam Abdul Wahab, told Malay Mail that he and his daughter did not think the walkout day was the best method to show support for the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace movement.
He said it could instead set a negative example for children and students, adding that he and his daughter did not want to spread hatred or ask students to rebel against the authorities, especially against educational institutions nationwide.
“For the time being, me and Ain would like to see more support in social media by using the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace hashtag. The public also can make a placard with the hashtag and post the video or photo.
“I do hope other parents realise the importance of this #MakeSchoolASaferPlace awareness campaign by showing their support via social media. Parents must always trust the children.
“Never let them feel ignored and hopeless. Every child has a big potential, let them bloom,” he added.
On Tuesday, a group of 20 women MPs united across the political divide to ask Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to ensure that schools are a safe place for students, following allegations of a rape joke by a teacher and rape threats faced by a female student who exposed him recently.
This came at the back of other matters involving safety of students, especially female students, including the many public revelations from students and ex-students who have alleged that the period spot checks had been a practice in schools for 20 years.
Education Minister Datuk Radzi Md Jidin has since said that there was no indication that such practice existed so far.
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