SCHOOLS should make it a priority to undertake exemplary efforts to purge racial harassment involving both teachers and students.
The national schools, specifically, should play a more serious role in curbing racial harassment in order to instil genuine national integration through the schooling process.
In most cases, minorities make up the composition of national schools and no child should be racially harassed in school because he or she comes from a minority group.
Racial resentment in schools, if allowed to fester, would cause unrestrained hatred among students of different backgrounds. A racially hostile environment in schools involving teachers and students would cause further anguish mentally and emotionally.
There have been reports in the past of minority students asking for transfers to other schools because of intolerance they encounter in their schools. This is unhealthy when the philosophy of our national education policy is to integrate people of all races through the national schools.
There has to be a genuine commitment among teachers and students to ensure that schools are safe learning environments for all Malaysians irrespective of the racial composition in schools.
Though this problem of racial harassment is not a widespread phenomenon in Malaysian schools, the Education Ministry should be proactive and ensure this malignancy is nipped in the bud.
The ministry should ensure that schools adopt policies and procedures to address the issue of racial harassment to the extent that school principals are chided if schools do not comply with the needs and requirements of best practices in harmonising the school community.
The onus is on the school principal to identify the best practices that schools can adopt in dealing with the problem of racial harassment and this has to be implemented in all national schools.
Despite assurance from the authority that racial harassment is not tolerated by the Government, we still see pockets of incidences in some schools. If racial harassment becomes frequent and common, then it can be construed that teachers are ill equipped and poorly trained to respond appropriately to incidents of this nature.
There must be proactive measures to ease school tensions involving racial harassment, including exposing teachers and students to social activities within the school community to foster greater tolerance and sensitivity to racial issues.
Teacher training should include diversity and anti-racism issues in its curriculum and enable future teachers to better appreciate the importance of tolerance and patience in handling students of different races and religions.
Schools should strive to be a desirable and welcoming place for students of all backgrounds. Make schools a safe and friendly place for all.
Teachers should get rid of general intolerance towards minorities by nurturing in them healthy mental health and instilling in students the values of tolerance and understanding.
Teachers and parents should relentlessly and at all times identify positive steps to overcome the problem of racial harassment in school before this becomes an irrepressible issue that can shatter the harmonious society of ours.
After 50 years of independence and defining ourselves as Malaysians, we have to learn to embrace the growing diversity of all communities and take important steps for schools to produce students who can understand and respect differences among all people.
The stigma of bigotry, such as racial harassment, if allowed to persist would only deprive our future workforce of tolerance and understanding.
DR M.A. NAIR,
Bandar Muadzam Shah.
The Star Online: 20 Ogos 2008