Image: Azhar Ramli / New Straits Times
It's the first day of school. While a few young ones are terrified at the idea of it, seven-year-old Tan Yao Chun from Taman Sayang in Kedah is excited at the prospect of putting on a school uniform and spending time in class... but he won't be getting an opportunity to do so.
According to this report by the New Straits Times
, little Yao Chun is stateless. This means that by law, he doesn't 'belong' to any state in Malaysia. And according to laws enforced by the Education Department, you cannot go to school here unless you are registered with the state National Registration Department (NDR).
Currently living with his 77-year-old grandmother and retired nurse, Rose Mary Chin, Yao Chun's story began in 2009 in Thailand's Hatyai City Hospital, where he was born to a Malaysian father and a Myanmarese mother. With no country citizenship to his name, Yao Chun's father was supposed to register his birth at the Malaysian embassy in Thailand. That however, didn't happen. Worse, his father then went missing. Not knowing what to do, his mother handed him over to Rose, who lives in Kedah.
With his birth certificate in hand, Rose attempted to register her grandson at the state NDR. Unfortunately, because Yao Chun's father failed to register the birth certificate at the Malaysian Consulate General Office in Thailand, the certificate was deemed invalid and could not be processed. Refusing to give up, Rose then travelled to the Malaysian office in Thailand, but the absence of Yao Chun's father meant that the officials could not proceed with the registration.
Although Yao Chun's father has since resurfaced, his attempts to register the boy continues to be hampered, with the NDR declaring the current status of the application as "pending".
In light of this issue, which is, surprisingly, more common than you think
, State Education Committee chairman Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain and Peninsular Malay Students Federation Kedah chairman Shamsul Bahar Abdul Rani are urging the state Education Department to come up with a solution to address this issue and not deprive stateless children of education. To prevent this from happening, the authorities are also advising parents to immediately apply for a birth certificate upon birth. Currently, kids who are born abroad to Malaysian parents are allowed to attend public schools here, provided they have a valid birth certification to prove their citizenship.
As Rose continues to wait for her grandson's application to be approved, she can only hope for the best. In fact, she is also prepared to adopt Yao Chun if this means granting him a legal document that would allow him to be schooled.