PETALING JAYA, April 28 — More than 600 tahfiz schools in the country are not registered with the state religious authorities.
The shocking revelation comes following the death of 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi in Johor on Wednesday.
The religious school he attended in Kota Tinggi was among those unregistered.
National Institute of Tahfiz Al-Quran president Mohd Zahid Mahmood said Madrasah Tahfiz Al Jauhar was in the midst of getting approval from the state religious body.
He said there were about 1,200 tahfiz schools nationwide, but only 670 were registered.
“Those registered are monitored, and their syllabus looked into and funds provided.”
He, however, said there was no uniform syllabus and no standardised hiring process for staff at such schools,” he told Malay Mail Afternoon E-paper.
Zahid said the association had made plans last year to set up a Tahfiz Teacher Excellence Centre to:
Streamline running of tahfiz schools.
Provide training for teachers and staff.
The centre, however, was only scheduled to be up and running in five years.
“A teacher’s job is more than just teach. They must know how to handle children,” he said.
“It’s the same with other staff.”
News of unregistered tahfiz schools in the country did not go down well with stakeholders.
Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos said he is appalled that only half of tahfiz schools in the country were registered.
“This shows there is little or no regulation overseeing religious schools,” said Jababerdeen, who is the founder of Rapera, a movement which encourages thinking and compassionate citizens.
“Children’s lives and welfare at schools, especially if they stay in hostels, should always be of a primary concern,” he said.
Jahaberdeen, who is also a lawyer, questioned the rationale of not having religious schools come under the jurisdiction of the Education Ministry.
“Why is religious education not under the purview of the ministry? All educational institutes, even tuition centres, regardless of whether they are private or public, come under the ministry.”
G25 member Tan Sri Mohamed Ismail Merican said registration of religious schools is vital to ensure protocols, especially in the selection of teachers, are adhered to.
“If schools are not registered, they are free to employ anyone and everyone,” he said.
“It is important to look at their backgrounds. They might be religious today but there is no telling what they have done in their past.”
Ismail also suggested the government conduct routine interviews with religious school students to continuously monitor their performances and well-being.
“This is the way to measure their academic performances, and to look out for both verbal and non-verbal red flags which will prevent a similar tragedy from happening,” he said.
He advised parents to also play their part and not shift responsibilities to the hands of educational staff.
“Sending children to religious schools is a good thing but parents must not have this ‘hands off’ approach. They should always check on their children from time to time.”
DAP Wanita International secretary Sangeet Kaur Deo said there were questions that need to be answered.
In a statement, she asked:
What is the vetting process of teachers at religious schools?
Who decides on the curriculum?
Who decides on the quality of education and what is being taught?
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said private religious schools will soon be registered under the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).
The move under the National Tahfiz Education Policy, which had been earlier proposed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, will be implemented after Jakim finalises several issues, including the terms of registration of these schools.
Thaqif, who was admitted to Sultan Ismail Hospital on April 19, was scheduled for surgery to remove his right arm on Wednesday to prevent bacterial infection from blood clots. This was after his legs were amputated.
But surgery could not be performed as he had heart complications, and he died at the hospital’s high dependency ward.
Police have since classified his death as murder.
The schoolboy’s autopsy report is expected to be ready in two weeks.
A 29-year-old assistant warden from the school with a theft conviction, and who also tested positive for drugs, is in police custody.
Thaqif’s remains were laid to rest at the Felda Bukit Aping Timur cemetery at 12.37am yesterday. There is a need to get tahfiz schools in the country registered to ensure they are monitored, say Malaysians, after Thaqif’s tragic death.