Are the authorities aware of the abuse of young children in our religious schools? How serious is the problem? Is what is reported the tip of the iceberg?
Swelling, amputation and coma
On 22 April, 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gadaffi, a pupil at a private religious school in Kota Tinggi, Johore had both legs amputated. His mother claimed that her son’s legs had been beaten with a water hose, by an assistant warden, in incidents which happened throughout March. Fifteen other pupils were also beaten.
Their crime? They were making too much noise in the mosque.
Mohamad Thaqif’s mother only heard about the beating when her son pleaded with her to take him home. She did, because he looked weak and worried; but instead of taking him to the hospital, she sought traditional treatment. After a fortnight, and his condition had not improved, she finally decided to take him to the hospital.
He was admitted on 19 April, with swollen legs and blood clots on the legs. The day after admission, his legs were amputated but on the following day, young Mohamad Thaqif slipped into a coma. It was also reported that his right hand had turned necrotic and turned black because of germ infection on the tissue and blood cells.
Mohamad Thaqif’s case is not the first nor last case of abuse.
Tied to iron bar, hit and punched
In 2011, another beating caused the death of a child. The incident happened at the Asrama Putra, Sekolah Rendah Islam Al-Furqan at Arau in Perlis. The pupil was seven-year-old Saiful Syazani Saiful Sopfidee.
During the trial, earlier this year, it emerged that Saiful had been made to stand, with his hands tied to an iron bar, whilst the teacher slapped him, hit his head and punched his chest. The torture lasted two hours. Was this an apparent punishment for the seven year old’s alleged offence? Was the beating conducted to extract a confession from the child?
The pathologist who examined Saiful said that the the child had also been strangled for around four minutes. This cut off the supply of oxygen to Saiful’s brain. The strangulation and beating both contributed towards the young boy’s death.
On 5 January 2017, Hanif lost his appeal and received the death sentence for the crime, committed six years ago.
Do people think the ulama can do no wrong?
So many abuses have been perpetrated by religious teachers, that one wonders if there are many perverts like Hanif?
In Malaysia, few dare confront those men and women, who profess to be religious teachers. So, are the majority of crimes committed by ulamas unreported?
Children are afraid to reveal the abuse, received at the hands of their teachers. They fear retribution, and keep quiet until they can no longer stand the pain or the humiliation, before they snap. Many run away or withdraw into themselves. Others take their own lives. The abuse can be sexual or physical harm, or both.
In this case, the perpetrator was a religious teacher, and a hostel warden to the boarders under his care. What caused so much fury in the teacher, that he beat a seven year old to death? Has he mental health issues? Was he depressed? Was his job very strenous? Had he been made a warden of the hostel, against his wishes?
Was the hostel warden the only school official in the school that night? Were his colleagues not aware that he was torturiung a little boy? If there were other school teachers or wardens around, why did they not stop Hanif from beating the little boy?
Culture of abuse
Perhaps, the culture of abuse is more common than what we would like to believe. A teacher or warden who has physically or sexually abused a child will never tell on another teacher who is guilty of the same abuse. They will protect one another, and so the crimes are never exposed to the outside world.
Perhaps, the school authorities are aware of what goes on in our religious hostels. It is a crime to beat children, or sexually abuse them, ao the authorities are themselves guilty of a massive cover-up.
Has the Ministry of Education done a thorough survey, to see what goes on behind the closed doors, in our religious hostels and boarding schools?
We owe it to the children like Saiful who died at the hands of a sadist, a religious teacher and a warden; someone who was supposed to take care of the child’s interests and well-being. We owe it to Mohamad Thaqif, who is fighting for his life.
So, what is going on in the religious schools of Malaysia? How often are young children beaten that they end up in hospital with serious injuries, or die as a result of their beatings? How often are these schools regulated? Do parents and officials think that religious schools and the teachers or wardens working in these schools will not abuse, mentally, physically and sexually their young charges?
How much abuse goes unreported?
Do religious school officials lack understanding, compassion, forgiveness and values?
Photo Credit: The Star