Even PM Mahathir once said, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "There's something rotten in the state of Denmark" and that's the news out from Sarawak in Malaysia. It is an overwhelming Christian state with many mission schools but for reasons best known to those in authority, more Muslim teachers than those of other religious affiliations are very evident in the composition of the teaching staff.
I reserve any further comments on the following report which is a hot topic now, pending the outcome of a call for an investigation and disciplinary action against the errant staff member.
Student Whacked 10 Times for Non-halal Food
KUCHING: A 10-year-old schoolboy here received 10 “whacks on his palm” for bringing fried rice with pork sausages to eat in school during recess.
A senior teacher at the St Thomas Primary School here caned Basil anak Baginda 10 times on his palm for bringing non-halal food to school.
His mother, Angela Jabing, disclosed this incident at a press conference yesterday much to the shock of several PKR women leaders who were present.
"My son Basil anak Baginda, aged 10, has been with St Thomas’ Primary School, Kuching, since his kindergarten years.
“On Oct 15, I prepared fried rice with pork sausages for my son to bring to school for his recess. However, I was shocked to learn that he was punished and caned 10 times on the palm by the senior assistant for bringing non-halal food to school," she said.
"I have never received any written circular from the school that children cannot bring non-halal food to the school," added the distraught mother.
Jabing said on Oct 19, she went to the school to seek a clarification of the incident.
"I met the principal who was at the time sitting with the senior assistant in the senior assistant’s room.
"Instead of clarifying the reason for my son’s punishment, the senior assistant said that he could not remember the incident,” Jabing said.
According to her, the senior assistant had summoned her son to his office to explain himself and had later told her not to blow up the incident as it was a sensitive matter.
Jabing said that the headmaster had also told her that in February this year, the senior assistant had announced during the school assembly that the students were prohibited from bringing any non-halal foodstuff to school, even for their own consumption as an act of respect for the Muslim students.
“I was not satisfied with the explanation, so I wrote in asking for a written explanation within three working days.
"On the third day, I received a call from the principal who requested to meet me on Oct 28. I still insisted on a written reply on the matter and was told by him to collect the letter the following day.
“The letter did not properly answer my question on why my son was caned 10 times for eating fried rice with non-halal sausages. Is this a justified action taken by the school on schoolchildren?” she asked.
Ministry must investigate
Jabing also wanted to know whether the school was trying to implement this “non-halal” food rules on children’s food brought from home.
She also wanted to know if the instruction came from the Education Ministry.
Meanwhile, PKR women leaders present at the press conference have demanded that the ministry investigate the incident.
They said if left alone, the issue could turn “very ugly” especially in a mission school.