A tahfiz school pupil, Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gadaffie, was hospitalised last Wednesday. By Friday, his two legs were amputated. He slipped into a coma on Saturday, and doctors warned that he may also lose his right arm.
Thaqif had been beaten last March, by an assistant warden at his religious school. His mother only found out, when he begged her to take him home. He said that he and 15 of his friends, had been beaten with a water hose. His condition deteriorated and doctors had to amputate his swollen legs, to save his life. By then, the bacterial infection had spread to his right arm.
It has been one week since Thaqif was admitted, and we have yet to receive official statements from some relevant ministries, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who deals with Islamic Affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, and JAKIM, the Islamic body which deals with Islamic matters in the nation.
First. The Minister for Women, Family and Community Development is strangely quiet about Thaqif.
Is she not concerned about his welfare? What about the other children who were beaten? Has she checked on their well-being? Will she say something to reassure other parents?
Second. This was a private religious school. Tahfiz schools are private institutions where students learn to memorise the Koran. They are not under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and many merely register with the state religious affairs department.
Why are private tahfiz schools not registered with the Ministry of Education? Who oversees standards? Who checks to see that extremist values are not being taught? No one?
Third. The Minister of Education should take the initiative to suspend all religious schools and demand that an inquiry be set up in this particular school and also other schools nationwide.
Why? To see if there are abuses are being carried out. If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, what happened to Thaqif is just the tip of the iceberg.
Fourth. The Minister of Education should grab this opportunity to demand that these religious schools come under its purview, and adhere to strict guidelines, a strict code of conduct and good practices. Otherwise, anyone can set up any school.
Who is responsible for the well being and welfare of the pupils and staff in tahfiz schools? Is there no level of accountability? Who vets the teachers? What is the selection criteria for its teaching staff? Who vets the ordinary members of staff to find out if they have been convicted of other crimes, including sexual assault?
How well-run is the school? Who funds it? Who are the school governors? Is there an active Parents-Teachers association? What are the hostel, toilet, dormitories and catering facilities like? Has the ministry checked the viability of the school curriculum?
Fifth. Are other parents not worried that their children are also at risk?
It does not matter if their child is in Thaqif’s school, or in other schools where abuses are possibly being hushed-up.
Are parents scared to confront the teachers of the religious schools? Is our indoctrination so strong that to question the teachers may be misconstrued as “going against Islam”.
Sixth. The Johor Islamic Religious Committee chairman, Abd Mutalip Abd Rahim, claimed that Thaqif’s private religious school was one of the state’s leading institutions.
This is shocking news. What does that say about the other schools?
Seventh. In his diary, Thaqif wrote about being beaten and prayed that his parents would transfer him to another school.
Is the headmaster, teachers, and other staff members blind, deaf and dumb? Are they clueless? Did no one see the bruises or hear about the beatings?
Is there a culture of silence in this school? Are beatings condoned? Are beatings part of the normal school operating procedure?
The head teacher is also responsible. It happened under his watch.
Eighth. The Minister of Education is very irresponsible and appears incapable of dealing with religious type schools.
Schools such as this tahfiz school must be registered. Spot checks and regular school inspections should be conducted. These schools must be regulated to gain parents’ confidence and ensure that their children are being well looked after besides getting a sound education.
Ninth. Najib Abdul Razak recently gave RM80 million to registered tahfiz and state religious schools. These schools appear to do the government’s bidding.
Many taxpayers’ probably disagree with tahfiz/religious schools, and would prefer that the allocation be distributed to improve normal-type government schools.
Why are we aping Pakistani madrasah-style schools, where pupils are brilliant at memorising the Koran (and whipped with chains for forgetting their lines), but are little use for anything else?
Do we need more ulamas in our society, who can tell us a lot about the afterlife, but are clueless about life on earth?
Tenth. Where is the Minister in the PM Department, Jamil Khir Baharom, who deals with religious affairs?
He is good at defending himself when he was alleged to have used taxpayers’ money to renovate his house. He is mute for this religious school scandal.
Poor vetting in religious schools allows criminals to get jobs there. What if the assistant warden was also a paedophile?
The sadist has been arrested for allegedly beating Thaqif. If charged, he stands to lose his freedom, albeit for a few years, whereas Thaqif, suffered life-changing injuries with the loss of his limbs.
Why? All because many people looked away. In addition, the Women and Education ministers, Jakim and the Islamic Affairs Minister, have absolved themselves of any responsibility.