The right to education for the stateless children in Malaysia continues to be an issue despite a previous education ministry's directive that allowed them to be enrolled in government schools.
Even after being adopted by local families, the child will remain stateless pending approval of any application for Malaysian citizenship.
On Monday, former deputy education minister Teo Nie Ching (above) said she was informed by NGO Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas of at least six stateless children in Penang who were denied enrolment into government school as they have no student pass for foreign students that can only be issued with a passport.
"I raised this issue in Parliament last year, 16 December 2020 to be precise, when I came across a similar instance in Johor," said the Kulai MP in a statement.
Teo said she had, at the time, written to then education minister Maszlee Malik over the plight of an adopted stateless child identified as ‘ET’ who was asked by the Johor Education Department to show his student pass.
"It was impossible for ET to obtain a student pass from the Immigration Department as he would need to show his foreign passport in order to apply for a student pass.
"In this case, as both of his adoptive parents are Malaysians and his application for citizenship is still pending for Home Ministry's approval, he obviously does not have any foreign passport and therefore was unable to produce a student pass," said Teo.
Unlike the current situation in Penang, Teo said the Education Ministry had allowed ET to enrol in a government school since January this year, without the need to own a passport or student pass.
"It seems like MOE does not have a consistent policy.
"Or are there influential little Napoleons undermining the authority of the Minister of Education or is this caused by ignorant officers who do not understand the policy?
"Whichever the case, MOE should rectify the issue immediately and allow stateless children who are adopted by Malaysian parents or whose biological parents are Malaysians to study in government schools.
"This is a simple policy that goes to support the most basic and fundamental principle that the MOE upholds, ie effective access to education indiscriminately [...]," she said, adding that a failure to do so should force the ministry to re-evaluate its priorities.
'Putrajaya should review enrolment policy'
Meanwhile, Bernama reported that the Penang state government has urged Putrajaya to review the new policy on the application to enrol stateless children in government schools.
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy reportedly said the state government has identified 19 stateless children whose adopted families could not produce their passports with no contact to the children’s birth mothers.
“The adopted children are not allowed to go to school because they do not have a country-of-origin passport and this denies their rights to obtain formal education in the country,” he was quoted as saying.
He said previously, stateless children adopted by Malaysian parents were able to attend government schools as long as the parents could produce a copy of the birth certificate (non-citizen) and official adoption certificate from the National Registration Department (NRD).
Ramasamy said since 2013, the Penang state government had resolved 10 percent of the 2,000 stateless children cases, allowing them to obtain formal education in government schools.
“I have raised the matter by sending a letter to the Penang Education Department (JPN) on Nov 13 last year.
"I hope the federal government and Penang JPN will address this issue,” he added.