KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — New school. New friends. Bad start.
For Britney Nicole, her excitement about going to a new school this year quickly turned into a nightmare when she was barred yesterday from attending SMK Seri Mutiara in Cheras because she wore a baju kurung uniform.
The Form Three student is puzzled over the ruling and is now scared of returning to school.
“I was wearing baju kurung in my previous school, so I don’t know what is wrong,” Nicole told Malay Mail yesterday.
“I have made new friends in this school and they have been concerned with what is going on.
“I was told by the teacher that I was being given a final warning and that I won’t be allowed to enter class unless I wore a pinafore. Now, I feel scared to go to school.”
She said it started on the first day of school when she and her aunt went the school and was asked by the senior assistant if she was Malay or Chinese.
Avoiding the explanation that she is ethnically Lun Bawang, she gave the simplified answer she was Sarawakian.
It was then that her aunt and guardian, Agnes Padan, 35, said Britney was then told if she was not Malay, she would have to wear a pinafore instead.
Having still not complied with the dress code, Britney was sent home at 7am yesterday and was made to wait outside the school compound because Padan’s husband, sales consultant Lawrence Jayaraj, 45, was only able to pick Nicole up at 10am.
“She said it was the rule in this particular school, where Malay girls wore baju kurung while non-Malay girls wore pinafores,” Padan said.
“I don’t understand how is this an issue. She looks well dressed in her baju kurung and it was not a problem in her previous school.”
Padan said when they went shopping for school uniforms, she felt her niece looked nice in the baju kurung and that a pinafore might be a “bit short”.
“She has been wearing baju kurung since she was in Form One. She has worn pinafores before but this year, we only bought baju kurung.”
Jayaraj found out from other parents the dress code was among the most strictly enforced rules in the school and that others were unhappy with it as well.
“Some of the parents feel like they are being bullied into following this rule,” he said.
He also said he tried to compromise with the teachers — having already spent the budget for school uniforms on baju kurung and asked if it was possible to wait until his paycheck came in at the end of the month — but to no avail.
“They suggested that if I needed money, I should go to her previous school and get BR1M money to pay for her pinafore.”
Nicole lives with her aunt and uncle and their five children in Cheras.
Hailing from the village of Long Semadoh in Lawas, Sarawak, her father put Nicole in the care of her aunt and uncle when she was 12 to pursue a better education.
“We want to give her a good education but now we are occupied with this silly issue,” said Jayaraj.
Deputy Education Minister II P. Kamalanathan said the school had no right to impose the rule for baju kurung to be exclusively worn by Muslim students.
“In the first place, this should not have happened,” he said.
“The ministry is investigating. If it is indeed true, action will be taken.”
Malay Mail’s attempts to contact the school authorities for comments were not successful.