'Review Palestine solidarity week'

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Education Ministry has been urged to review its decision to organise the Palestine Solidarity Week at schools and public education institutions, scheduled to be held from today.

While some political parties have called for the programme to be better supervised to ensure it does not glorify violence, education groups believe it should be limited to secondary schools.

PKR members of parliament and state assemblymen, in a joint statement yesterday, said that while the programme aimed to instil humanitarianism in among students, it should be free from elements of vengeance and violence.

"It would be difficult for the ministry to monitor the programme (and ensure) that it achieves its aim without spreading resentment and violence." read the statement.

The statement was jointly issued by Gopeng MP Tan Kar Hing, Petaling Jaya MP Lee Chean Chung, Miri MP Chiew Choon Man, Kebun Bunga assemblyman Lee Boon Heng, Rawang assemblyman Chua Wei Kiat, Semambu assemblyman Chan Chun Kuang and Simpang Pulai assemblyman Wong Chai Yi.

Other signatories included Chuah assemblyman Yew Boon Lye, Bukit Tambun assemblyman Goh Choon Aik, Kajang assemblyman David Cheong Kian Yong, Bukit Batu Arthur Chiong Sen Sern and Bakar Arang assemblyman Adam Loh Wei Chai.

They said they hoped the ministry would take strict action against those who failed to comply with its guidelines and incite violence.

"We are of the view that bringing up the issue of an international conflict in schools is unreasonable and must be studied.

"The government and people must maintain a rational mind while supporting the Palestinian cause and must not incite resentment and violence in public institutions."

On Thursday, the ministry announced said that it would be holding a Palestine Solidarity Week from Oct 29 to Nov 3.

This, it said, would involve all educational institutions under the ministry, including schools, vocational and matriculation colleges, as well as teacher training institutes (IPG) nationwide.

The ministry said the initiative's primary objective was to instill humane values, encompassing human rights and courtesy, among students.

This, it said, would be done by fostering attitudes of empathy and concern for the suffering of individuals, irrespective of their race, religion, or social status.

However, a viral video recently caused a stir on social media.

It showed an event at a school where one of the school staff, garbed in military-like gear and brandishing a toy gun, as teachers and pupils in school uniform looked on.

Among the teachers, one held a sign while others displayed Palestinian flags or had Palestine-themed scarves covering their faces and shoulders.

Others at the event were also seen holding toy rifles.

Several screenshots from social media also showed children at a school in Klang wearing green bandanas with "Save Palestine" written on their foreheads as they carried toy guns.

Meanwhile, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke called on the ministry to take disciplinary action against schools that displayed elements of violence and extremism during the Palestine solidarity week.

Loke expressed concern about over the organisation of the programme, with some schools seen propagating violence and extremism with the use of toy weapons.

"DAP opposes any form of violence and protests against any programmes that exhibit elements of armed violence in all schools involving young students.

"TheseSuch programmes will only convey the wrong message and teachings to our younger generation.

"DAP urges the ministry to take strict disciplinary action against those who organised the programme and prevent any such programmes from recurring," he said on Facebook.

The party also called on the ministry to review the sPalestineolidarity week in schools in favour of a more appropriate approach to convey the same message to students.

"Programmes in schools should foster a sense of global peace and instil humanitarian values to shape characters that align with the principles of civility.

"Intercultural understanding and mutual respect among peers from different backgrounds should also be encouraged." he said.

DAP also reiterated its stand ofto continue to standing in solidarity with the people of Palestinians on the principles of humanity and to always support the position of the Malaysian government in speaking out loudly on the world stage for the struggle to free Palestine and restore their rightful rights and territories.

Meanwhile, Parent Action Group for Education (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said while the Israel-Palestine conflict should be discussed in schools, the topic was too broad and thus should be limited to secondary schools "in a more subtle way".

She said school authorities should instead emphasise on the historical aspects of the conflict beginning from 1948 post-World War 2.

She said the learning process should be based on geographical facts, evidence and images and that there should not be a religious slant as the conflict was not a religious, but rather a land matter.

"For the older students, there may even be a need to differentiate between Jews, anti-Semitism and Zionism.

"Not all Jews agree with the conflict. Seek assistance from non-governmental organisations' expert on the topic.

"It is, however, it is important that students are made aware of the values of humanity, respecting the order of justice and the untold damage wars can do to the human race."," she said.

She also said the vague circular issued by the ministry's Public School Management Division might have led to confusion about over what was permitted during the Palestine solidarity week.

She said parents also needed to have conversations with their children on the importance of peace, how war affected families, and that global peace was paramount for countries to cherish.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said children should be taught love and compassion, instead of getting dragged into "participating in rallies".

"While we sympathise with the Palestinians and can have big-scale solidarity (programmes) on our own, we strongly feel that such a directive should not be given to schools." he said.

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