KUCHING: A mother yesterday claimed her 10-year-old son was caned for bringing non-halal food to school.
Angela Jabing said on Oct 15, she prepared fried rice with non-halal sausages for her son to eat during recess.
She claimed the boy was then caned 10 times on the palm by a senior assistant for bringing the food to school.
“I went to the school for clarification on Oct 19 and I met the principal who at that time was sitting with the senior assistant inside his room.
“Instead of clarifying on the reason for my son’s punishment, the senior assistant said he could not find in his records such an incident, thus could not recall the caning,” she said.
Angela said he also summoned her son to the office to explain himself.
“After which, he added this statement to me: ‘Jangan besar-besarkan hal, kerana ini isu yang cukup sensitif di kalangan orang-orang Islam’ (Don’t blow up this matter as it is a very sensitive issue among Muslims),” she told a press conference.
Angela said the headmistress also told her that last February, the senior assistant, who hails from Simunjan, had announced during assembly that pupils were prohibited from bringing non-halal food products to school, even for their own consumption, out of respect for Muslim pupils.
As she was not satisfied with the explanation, Angela said she wrote to request a written reply.
She said the headmistress called her to request a meeting on Oct 28, but she still insisted on a written explanation.
A written reply dated Oct 29, she said, did not explain why her son needed to be caned 10 times for eating a non-halal meal.
“Is this a justified action to be taken by a school on the children? I want to know also why the school is trying to implement this non-halal food rule and is this an instruction from the Ministry of Education?
“I must state that as a working mother and a non-Muslim, I am very concerned as my son has been arbitrarily punished and is now fearful of school. Also, I am unable to produce halal food as I am a non-Muslim. I call upon the ministry to look into and investigate the matter,” she said.
She stressed that if the rule was about respecting religion, then the school should not allow beef as well out of respect for Buddhists pupils.
State Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) women’s section vice-chairman Voon Shiak Ni, who was present at the press conference, said the school and ministry should look seriously into the matter. She said there was no written circular specifying what type of food was allowed at the school.
“Since we are living in a multiracial society, we hope our children can be taught to sit down together and eat at the same table. This is also a step to unity,” she said.
PKR women’s section deputy chief Nurhanim Hanna Mokhsen added that the punishment was far too heavy.
“He should not be caned 10 times. This is too much as he is only 10 years old. The school has to be realistic. Furthermore, it was not the boy’s fault because he did not prepare the food himself.
“The school should call his parents instead. Is this an instruction by the Ministry of Education or by the senior assistant himself?” she questioned.