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Refugee Children in Malaysia Struggle for Education Access

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BNN Correspondents
New Update
Refugee Children in Malaysia Struggle for Education Access

Only a third of the 49,220 refugee and asylum-seeking children registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia have access to informal education. This alarming statistic leaves more than 35,000 children without such access— a dire situation that demands urgent attention.

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Legal Constraints Hinder Education Access

Dr. Farah Nini Dusuki, from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), points to legal constraints as a significant barrier. Malaysia has not ratified the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, nor has it embraced the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons or the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. These conventions ensure minimum guarantees for basic human rights, including education, rights which, it appears, are being denied to these children.

Seven Major Challenges

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At a policy summary launch, SUHAKAM, in collaboration with UNHCR Malaysia, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the Asia Displacement Solutions Platform (ADSP), discussed seven major challenges in accessing formal education. Legal constraints were identified as a primary issue, along with language and financial barriers, limited funding, lack of documentation, insufficient infrastructure, and low parental involvement. Financial constraints often force refugee families to send school-aged children to work, further limiting their educational opportunities.

Proposals for Improvement

Several proposals have been put forward to address these challenges. These include establishing state-level special committees to tackle the citizenship status of stateless children, issuing temporary documents to facilitate education access, and reviewing and amending the Education Act 1996 and the Federal Constitution. The aim is to align these with international standards that recognize the right to education for all individuals, irrespective of their nationality or legal status.

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