The Education Ministry will remove the principal of SM All Saints in Sabah for segregating Form One students based on their religions
"The State Education Department has informed officers from the school management... I have asked the department to take the necessary action immediately," Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight yesterday, 17 March.
Calling the principal's decision "illogical", Teo added that religious segregation is no better than racial segregation.
"Only a school manager who is shallow would do such a thing," she said.
Parents of Form One students at SM All Saints had expressed their dissatisfaction with the school principal for the segregation
At the time of writing, an online petition initiated by the parents has garnered nearly 15,000 signatures in four days.
The petition revealed that segregation at the school began in January 2019 – four classes for non-Muslim students and two for Muslim students. The arrangement was to remain for the next three years.
Parents had protested against the decision but to no avail.
"These efforts were rejected by the principal... (Our) proposals were rejected by the principal as she said it is her responsibility to make the final decision," the petition read.
One parent told Free Malaysia Today that there are concerns over the segregation exercise as it will bring more harm than good to the students.
"We in Sabah have always been known for our tolerance. If this system is imposed on our children, imagine how this could affect their relationship with people of other religions in future," the parent said.
The school principal reportedly recorded a video to explain reasons for the segregation
According to Daily Express, the principal claimed that the segregation was to ensure "safety".
"The number one reason was safety – to ensure teachers and students are in the respective classes. The second reason was the difficulty to find a vacant classroom for Islamic religious studies," the petition read.
"The third reason was students were not attending Islamic religious studies as they do not know where it was being conducted," it added.
However, it is noted that students in Form Two to Form Five are in the usual class system where two classes are combined during Moral Education and Islamic religious studies periods.
Nonetheless, Sabah Education and Innovation Minister Dr. Yusof Yakob said earlier today, 18 March, that the issue has been resolved
"I believe what happened is that the principal may have overlooked the fact that racial and religious harmony is a bigger agenda than her decision," Yusof was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight today.
"Sabahans are a model of racial and religious harmony. Many families in the state comprise mixed marriages, and there is barely any religious conflict among us," he added.