PETALING JAYA: Whether a stateless child, who has one Malaysian parent, is allowed to attend school in this country now seems to hinge on the possession of a passport.
A 10-year-old girl has been forced to discontinue her education at a government school, after she was unable to produce her passport.
The girl, known as "Ah Mei", was born in Malaysia before her Malaysian father and Indonesian mother formally registered their marriage, so she has no identity card.
Ah Mei studied at a government primary school in Kulai, Johor for three years as she previously had a special student permit issued to stateless children to attend government school.
However, when she tried to renew her student permit this year, the Education Ministry requested for her passport, claiming this was a new requirement by the Immigration Department.
The Immigration Department reportedly issued a circular on Dec 28 last year saying that stateless children are now required to produce their passports before they can gain admission to schools.
Ah Mei's plight was highlighted by Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching at a press conference today.
The Education Department already has its own guidelines for student enrolment which took effect from 1988, and there is no need to require stateless children to produce their passport as well," she said.
Teo said under the Federal Constitution, children who have one Malaysian parent, are even eligible to apply for citizenship.
Teo said she had received four similar complaints involving stateless children who were forced to stop schooling because of the passport issue.
She urged the Education Ministry to solve the matter immediately, as the new schooling session has already commenced, so the affected children would be able to resume schooling as soon as possible.
Meanwhile in PENANG, seven-year-old H'ng Mei Qi, who was born in Chiang Mai, Thailand to a Malaysian father and Thai mother, was among the lucky ones allowed to attend school.
She was initially disappointed that she would not be able to start school this year but with the intervention of a political party which engaged with the State Education Department, she was accepted into school.
Apparently, she has been allowed to attend national school as one of her parents is a Malaysian, pending the renewal of her Thai passport and furnishing a document from the Commissioner of Oaths.
Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon had said stateless children will be allowed to attend school pending submission of documents, provided one parent was Malaysian.
He advised stateless children to apply for a Malaysian identification card and other relevant documentation from the Home Ministry.