(in the news ::: theSun, Speak Up!, 10 Apr 2006)

IN OUR race towards Vision 2020, national integration plays a very important role to help realise our dream of becoming a developed country. We often hear of stories about Vision Schools and polarisation in national schools and universities, but let’s not forget that welfare homes face the same problem.

There are too many orphanages which are segregated according to race. Orphans who are often still young are mixing among only their own race, which will not help in building a “Bangsa Malaysia”. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development should monitor the set up of these welfare homes to encourage integration.

My daily work revolves around implementing plans and organising activities for orphans in education, leadership and character-building programmes in 90 orphanages around the country. With these activities, we hope to help produce quality resources for the growth of our nation.

A brief survey reveals that less than 10% of the homes actually house all the nation’s major races. Most of the homes comprise children of a single race.

This is not surprising as there are homes established by local religious leaders. Moreover, guardians of the orphans often choose homes according to their own race. What is the difference between Malaysia in the 21st century and the historical country buried under the British colonial times, where the three major races were segregated?

Malaysians were taken aback when a survey revealed that school children do not mix with those of different races. Looking at the situation where they stay among their own ethnic groups, made worse with the situation in schools, where is Malaysia heading in terms of integration when we approach 2020?

The Vision School package generally is a good effort to integrate children in schools, yet still allowing the management of each school to run its own affairs. However, Vision Schools may take a long time to realise the dream of integrating the children and it is really difficult to achieve this noble vision in a short period. Nevertheless, if the implementation of Vision Schools is a success, this idea can also be implemented for welfare homes or orphanages in Malaysia.

The government should also study why these children are segregated according to race. They should learn from the homes which are successful in housing all major races together under one roof and share this experience with other homes. I believe the welfare department can also allocate the children to integrate children of all races.

Moreover, non-governmental organisations can also play an important role in bridging the gap among orphans in the homes. NGOs can organise activities which involve children from a few homes with different races. These activities should be on a long-term, continuous basis and not just a one-off project.

We hope that the public, corporate sponsors, government and even individuals could include integration as a part of the objectives when running activities with these children.

Chew Hoong Ling
Kuala Lumpur

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