Kota Kinabalu: A RM5 million centre for street children (Pusat Perlindungan Ehsan) will be built at the old Sekolah Tunas Bakti in Inanam, through a RM5.25m allocation from the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, it was disclosed Monday.
Welcoming the move, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said it would greatly assist in addressing street children-related problems in Sabah, especially in reducing the negative impact of these children on the State’s socio-economy.
"I hope the second phase development of the protection house will proceed smoothly (with the necessary allocation approved)," he said during a meeting on street children issues with Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil at Wisma Innoprise, Monday.
The second phase development would allow the children to be segregated based on gender. Musa said the State Government was also grateful to Shahrizat’s Ministry for the RM250,000 fund to upgrade facilities at the Temporary Detention Centre in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Human Child (CRC1995).
The children were being given basic education in line with the curriculum set by the Education Department. "Hopefully, the children will be able to undergo a conducive life while waiting for the protection house in Inanam," he said.
Musa said not all "street children" were those of foreigners (Filipinos) as some were born to Malaysian parents. "Those identified as local kids will be given the opportunity to attend school."
The State Government was also confident that studies on the street children by the Ministry in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sabah would give a clearer picture on the problem.
"We hope it will assist the State Government and the Ministry to draw up a long term plan that is more holistic and integrated to address the problem in Sabah," he said.
Shahrizat said statistics show that Sabah had a large number of "street children" but that their exact number was still being verified.
She said the Committee on Street Children covers "street children" not just in Sabah but nationwide. "What we know is that Sabah has a huge number of ‘street children’ but we do not know exactly how huge.
"We will work with UMS to determine the number. They will go down to the ground to find out how many are locals and how many are foreign children without valid documents," she said.
According to Shahrizat, the committee was given different figures, some obtained through operations by the Immigration and Police authorities.
"We have to do a proper study to identify whether the children are Malaysians or foreigners in an effort to get them off the street."
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin said only 48 children are presently housed at the temporary Children Protection Centre for Street Children located in Menggatal near the Detention Centre for illegal immigrants pending deportation.
Shahrizat reminded parents that it is an offence not to send their children to school as primary education is compulsory under the Education Act.
"Those charged and convicted are liable to a fine of RM5,000."
In this connection, her Ministry will collaborate with the Education Ministry in launching an awareness campaign as a pilot project.
At the Majlis Mesra Rakyat function, Shahrizat presented two cheques for the sum of RM100,000 each to Musa for the Mayang (State Welfare Development Council) and Nadi programmes (Adun Network) respectively. She also presented a third cheque valued at RM100,000 for the State Women & Family Development Council (MPWK Sabah) to Yahya.
It was witnessed by the Secretary-General to Shahrizat’s Ministry, Dato’ Faizah Tahir. Also present were Assistant Minister of Industrial Development, Hjh Jainab Datuk Hj Ahmad, Assistant Minister of Resource Development & Information Technology, Melanie Chia, Assistant Minister of Community Development & Consumer Affairs, Jornah Mozihim, Senator Datuk Armani Hj Mahiruddin and Deputy State Secretary Maznah Hj Abdul Ghani.