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Erna Mahyuni

Erna tweets too much on @ernamh. Angry Sabah native, slave to her dog/cat and blogs at ernamahyuni.com

APRIL 26 — I may believe in God, but I am heartily sick of hearing about religion in the Malaysian context.

The mismanagement of tahfiz schools and the poor treatment, tantamount to abuse, of children has been well documented.

And yet the abuse has not stopped. Instead of putting the children first, it spawns, instead, exercises in saving face and PR management.

Tahfiz children sexually assaulted, made to beg for money: these are not old stories. And yet, parents will not stop sending their children to these schools all for the sake of a golden ticket to heaven.

In my childhood, transgressions in school would occasionally mean a whack on a palm with a long ruler or with the handle of a rattan feather duster. Corporal punishment was the norm but the most a child could expect after would be a sore hand and a bruised ego.

Still, I find corporal punishment a terrible thing to use. Sanctioned cruelty, dispensed pain, what are we teaching children really? That violence is perfectly acceptable under certain terms? That we can be taught not to harm others and yet that teaching is irrelevant when it comes to meting out discipline? Corporal punishment creates only confused children.

What baffles me is the double standards we have for government-run schools and tahfiz. As though the very nature of the schools themselves absolve them from all wrongdoing.

The purpose of an institution does not protect it from corruption.

But giving adults with no proper moral compass absolute power over children, who are separated from their guardians, no good will come from that.

There is a general naivete among our populace, a terribly widespread magical thinking. That prayer and putting God first will ensure a peaceful life and that any hardship or tragedy is either a test or the Devil's work.

It has gotten to the point I get annoyed with the people who have nothing to offer but an “I will pray for you.”

Pray all you want, but prayer should never be an end to itself. It is an accompaniment, it follows action.

Praying for these children hurt by institutions that should be caring for them is a beginning, not an end.

Ask the mothers what they need, what help they can be given as they tend to their hurt children. Ask the children what would help them feel safer. Money, shelter, counselling: all these things and not just a prayer.

I think we need to start learning to ask, in the aftermath of tragedies, what can I do?

All the prayer in the world can't fix all our broken children.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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