When we drop off our children at the gates of their schools and see them walking in, we expect them to stay safe until we pick them up again.
Usually, we drop them with loads of do’s and don’ts, especially when they are in primary years.
Only the most imaginative of us parents would advice,”Do not follow strangers inside the school compound”, for we do not expect a school of hundreds of students and teachers with security guards to not to notice a stranger walking around preying upon the children.
Yet, this has happened in a school in Terengganu and it could have been a tragedy had the girl not had her wits about her and screamed. It was also a good thing that there was a CCTV installed in the school.
The scary part was when we watch a teacher walking past the stranger who seems to walk nonchalantly along the corridors as the student follows him closely.
On Monday, it was reported that a Year Two pupil of a primary school in Dungun was allegedly molested at a store of the school at about 1.30pm.
A footage of the school’s closed-circuit television camera showed that the girl was approached by an unidentified man who asked her to go to the store, but when she refused to go inside, the man allegedly carried her when she screamed and he ran away.
In response, the Education Ministry wants all state directors to review the contracts of security companies appointed to keep schools and children safe.
The Star reported that Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said some schools hired guards who do not have the basic knowledge or skills in providing security.
Mahdzir said the ministry has discussed the issue at the highest level and asked all state directors and district Education offices to look into the matter seriously.
While it is heartening to note that the Education Ministry views this seriously, national school security has been wanting for years. This is because the bureaucracy in hiring security guards at schools.
The hiring of security guards for national schools lie with the state education department, and even if the school finds the security guards inappropriate, it is difficult to change them, to the extent parents would even advise not to go near the security guards.
Most Parent-Teacher Associations wish that they could be the ones who could be given the budget to hire the security guards, for if the security guards are not doing their jobs, they can be changed immediately. Some PTAs take it into their own hands and hire extra security guards of their own.
However, as for now, the state education department would sign a contract with a security company, who in turn would send their guards, who at most times would be completely untrained and unfit.
If the PTAs are strong, then the state education department would listen, otherwise, it is a wait and see game if the guards will ever change.
On top of all these, the ministry had made it all worse last year when it delayed payment for some 40,000 security guards in about 12,000 schools from some 160 companies by 10 months.
This is assumed to have been sorted out over time, but parents and schools have been jittery ever since. An unhappy security guard is not a good one.
It is time the Education Ministry not only review the tenders and contracts, but make sure they are paid on time. Most important of all, the school itself must be allowed to have a say in how the security guards are hired, for the schools are the ones in direct contact with the guards.
Also, it is vital that the Security Services Association of Malaysia be made to ensure that these guards deployed to the schools are fit to stand guard over our precious children.
There should not be any money pocketed for anyone’s benefit, when it comes to the security of national schools.