28 March 2022, Kota Kinabalu
There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its childrenNelson Mandela
In April 2022, we have been made aware of an issue happening in the remote area of Kampung Pangaraan, which is located within the district of Nabawan. Videos of school children making their way across the river to get to school on makeshift rafts and ziplines made their rounds on social media.
A news article published on 9th April 2022 on Daily Express highlighted how teachers at the same school had to take a massive 18-hour journey by foot to get there, due to bad road conditions and bridges that have collapsed, making journeys by car highly impossible and life-threatening.
These are all causes of a flood that happened in the beginning of March 2022.
We can frame these incidences as a show of courage and commitment – children are doing all they can to attend school, while teachers are doing all they can to be there to teach and ensure that children are not left behind in their education.
But we can also frame these incidences less positively – that our country has failed to give everyone the same access to education, a basic human right. While the number of schools in the area is commendable, there is no point of having school buildings if the access to said schools are not safe and are instead putting children at danger of drowning and teachers at danger of road accidents.
It is worth noting that this is the first real school year since 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic came to our shores, The pandemic has forced schools to shut down while the nation attempted to limit the spread of the virus which can be deadly to those who are immunocompromised.
While schools in urban areas may be able to continue their studies online from the comfort of their homes, the same could not be guaranteed in areas such as Kampung Pangaraan, where access to electricity to power up devices to access the internet are scarce, let alone access to good internet connections to allow for online classes.
Malaysia acceded to the Convention on the Rights of The Child in 1995, but what is currently happening in Kampung Pangaraan and the surrounding areas has broken many of the provisions that has been set up to guarantee the protection of children specifically Articles 19, 28 (1) (a), 28 (1) (b).
These are Malaysian children who will one day grow up to be the leaders of our country, and we have failed them.
There is no point to only building and restoring school buildings if the same effort is not put towards accessibility. Without teachers, there can be no provision of education. Without the children, what is a school even for?
The relevant authorities need to ensure that children can access education by enabling safe and secure access to schools.
A change.org petition is currently collecting signatures to demand the relevant authorities to provide accessible and safe roads for Kampung Pangaraan, Nabawan in Sabah at https://www.change.org/KampungPengaraan. Please sign and share to show your concern.