Malaysia Dateline

Confusing tadika and taska SOPs may lead to increased child abuse, says DAP MPs

As parents scramble to find replacement childcare for their kids, some may be forced to leave their child in the hands of neighbours, friends, and extended family members.

An online press conference held by DAP MPs Hannah Yeoh and Teo Nie Ching recently explored the possibilities of children being abused as a result of the confusing and inconsistent standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the PN government.

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh chastised the government for not recognizing kindergartens and other early childhood education centers as essential services citing the fact that these centers often double up as childcare services for working parents.

There should be no justification for shutting down these centers unless there is an outbreak or an infection. PN should not leaving parents high and dry, causing them unnecessary stress in these unprecedented times

Times are tough, parents may be too afraid to tell their employers that they don’t have childcare and risk losing their jobs. Many are also hesitant to leave their children with their grandparents to avoid the chance of spreading the infection to a high risk individual.

So what do parents do in that situation? “They may leave their kids in the hands of friends, neighbours, or extended family. This would undoubtedly increase a child’s exposure to potential abuse. This is especially dangerous for children in the 0 – 4 years category who may be unable to vocalize their distress to their parents” said Hannah.

Member of Parliament for Kulai, Teo Nie Ching also chimed in claiming that a critical problem is PN’s lack of understanding of what is happening on the ground. By closing down these private preschools, you are essentially cutting off parents ability to have trusted childcare.

Studies have shown that one in ten children are sexually abused in Malaysia and the government need to pay extra attention to any policy or rules made that may affect the well-being and safety of children.

With insufficient laws to protect our children, sexual predators have found a safe haven in Malaysia.

Just last year, Communications and Multimedia Deputy Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin explained that the country still lacked the technology as well as the budget to create a sexual predator detection system that has been adopted in other countries like the US.

Hannah believes that much of the confusion arises from the lack of communication between the different ministries in charge of early childhood education, and that there isn’t one unified voice advising authorities during the creation of the SOPs.

There are currently four different ministries handling early childhood education. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, (KPWKM) headed by Rina Harun would be in charge of children aged between 0-4 years. Therefore nurseries or “taskas” usually fall under her authority.

Kindergartens (tadikas) on the other hand, fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education under Dr. Radzi.

Taska Perpaduan or Perpaduan Preschools would be overseen by the Unity Ministry led by Halimah Mohamed Sadique, and Kemas Kindergartens which would be under the Ministry of Rural Development headed by Dr. Latiff Samad.

That’s not to say all decentralized governing is bad, Malaysia could attempt to mirror Singapore’s Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) which acts as one stop shop between nurseries and kindergartens.

The lack of communication and coordination also bothered other participants of the zoom call, including the president of Persatuan Guru Tadika Pulau Pinang (PGTPP) Sally Ng, who wished there was more standardization when it came to the SOPs.

The government certainly seems confused, for example of the 7th of May, the Home Ministry (MKN) allowed kindergartens to operate, then on the 10th of May, the Ministry of Education (MOE) claimed that kindergartens were not allowed to operate.

Finally with the release of MCO 3.0 guidelines, PM Muhyiddin oce again allowed for kindergartens to operate. Even though, the final outcome is one that is very much welcomed by educators and parents alike, the inconsistency needs to be stopped. “To be honest, I find in this situation MOE is the one being quite unreasonable. Frankly, they need to stop making fools of themselves.”said Nie Ching.

She opined that things would have been much easier to understand if the government had followed one set of rules from day one.

In other words, if MCO 1.0 was well thought out and designed, everyone would know what the drill was when MCO 2.0 and MCO 3.0 was rolled out. This would have given the educators, the management and the parents the ability to spring into action immediately.

The attendants agreed that there should not be confusion of this magnitude when the government already has experience in setting the SOPs two times prior.

E-Bridge Preschool Penang founder and managing director Patrick Tiah who also attended the zoom call, expressed his hope that the government would put more effort and care when dealing with early childhood education matters.

“Research has shown early childhood education gives the highest return over a child’s lifetime. Early childhood education shapes character, confidence and their ability to interact with others. We hope that going forward the ministry would have a better dialogue with the public and the private operators when they share their policies.” he said.