Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has expressed sadness over today’s fire incident at a religious school in Kuala Lumpur, which killed at least 24 people. (Photo courtesy of reader)

SIBU: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has expressed sadness over today’s fire incident at a religious school in Kuala Lumpur, which killed at least 24 people.

Zahid, who is on a working trip here, said he will return to Kuala Lumpur immediately to inspect the situation at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre later today.

According to preliminary reports, Zahid said, the school’s management did not register the school with the Education Ministry.

He said checks are being done to determine if the school was registered with the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council, Yayasan Pondok Malaysia or Yayasan Pintar.

“Regardless if the centre is privately run or not, there will be no compromise as it involves the deaths of many children.

“In fact, sometime ago, I stressed the importance of safety measures during a coordination meeting with operators of tahfiz centres and Islamic schools.

“This is not the first time such incidents have happened. Hence, this issue must be addressed,” Zahid told reporters at Sibu Airport here.

Present were Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, the ministry’s director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof, and State Education, Science and Technology Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong.

To avoid a recurrence of such incidents, Zahid urged all privately run tahfiz centres and religious schools to register with their respective states’ Islamic religious councils.

Zahid said by registering, school operators are required to adhered to the authorities’ strict safety requirements.

“However, there are tahfiz centre operators who are adamant and refuse to register.

“The operators fear that the councils will interfere with their education system and syllabus.

“This is not the case because tahfiz centres and Islamic religious schools are under the purview of the states’ respective Islamic religious councils, which is enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“And we are a government that upholds the Federal Constitution.

“We want operators to register for the sake of their centre and students.

"We want their students to study in a safe environment and have access to all the facilities available,” he said, adding that there are 50,000 students at various tahfiz centres nationwide.

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