Saturday, August 31, 2013

A month later, tables turn on Seri Pristana students

A month later, tables turn on Seri Pristana students

BY MELISSA CHIAugust 31, 2013
Malay Mail Online 
LUMPUR, Aug 31 — A month ago, parts of the nation seethed at the sight of students made to eat in the bathroom of a Sungai Buloh school.

But now that the controversy has waned, parents allege the children are facing a backlash from those blaming them for damaging the reputation of SK Seri Pristana.

Some parents claim there are those in the school now out to learn the identities of those involved in triggering the public storm over headmaster Mohd Nasir Mohd Noor’s decision to use a bathroom as a canteen during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Kamu budak jahat, pasal kamu semua, name sekolah terjejas (You are naughty children, because of you all, the school’s name is jeopardised),” a parent, who wished to be known only as Raj, recounted a teacher’s alleged words to his daughter following the controversy.

He told The Malay Mail Online that the first of many such alleged incidents took place after a morning assembly, when the “Penyelia Petang” (afternoon supervisor) singled out the children.

Raj said this may be because only the non-Muslim students in the afternoon session ― those in Standards Two, Three and Four ― ate in the shower room; he said the older non-Muslim students in the morning session had opted to eat elsewhere, such as at staircases instead of the “smelly and dirty” bathroom.

Another parent, who asked to be known only as Devi, 45, said that while her son has not been harassed, she is seriously considering transferring him elsewhere after the end of this school year, fearing that he would be targeted next.

“But we don’t know what about the future, it seems to be that there is no solution to this problem, it will just go on and on,” she told The Malay Mail Online over the phone.

“I don’t know how the headmaster and the teachers are going to behave with the kids, (there is) no guarantee the teachers are going to be okay with them.”

There are fewer than 30 non-Muslim students in the primary school of about 1,300. Some parents have already opted to withdraw their children after one father was arrested for allegedly intimidating Mohd Nasir, fearing they are next in line.

Devi said, ideally, she would transfer her son to a more racially-integrated school, although she has yet to identify the right one.

Meanwhile, Raj said the school has disputed the allegations of harassment, and alleged that students were told to transfer out of SK Seri Pristana if they did not like the school.

He further said the students were told to furnish evidence of the alleged persecution.

This was enough to drive his daughter to a teary bid over two days to convince Raj and his wife to move her to a different school.

She did not return to the school since the Hari Raya holidays and started attending a new school last Monday.

He insists that the reports of students being targeted by school figures were “not lies”.

“The education blueprint says it wants to create 1 Malaysia unity among all races, that must start from schools,” he said.

For Devi, she only hopes that her son will make it through the rest of the school year undisturbed.
“Just a few months, we don’t want any problems, just finish [the year] off and we’re moving out,” she said.

A firestorm erupted late last month after images of primary schoolchildren eating in a bathroom were shared on social media sites.

School authorities explained that the move was because the canteen had been under renovation. Government figures including Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan accepted the clarification and declared the issue closed following an apology from the school head.

But the matter has continued to simmer since with police reports and threats against various parties.

On Monday, one parent was arrested for allegedly threatening Mohd Nasir, but his arrest led to outcry from others who say 18 police reports had been made against the headmaster with no result.

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