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Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — The Education Ministry said it has not found discrimination against non-Muslims students at SMK Infant Jesus Convent in Johor Baru that allegedly excluded them in an examination preparation programme.

In a statement today, the ministry said the SPM preparation course had been initiated by the Johor Baru district education office (PPD) along with relevant parties such as the school’s parent-teacher association.

It said the controversy was due to a failure to communicate that course would be held in stages to avoid disrupting students’ celebrations for the lunar new year.

“Initial reports found that the workshop was one of various plans by the relevant parties to ensure that all students, regardless of race, could prepare for the SPM examinations.

“On January 19 and 20, the SPM Preparation Workshop for candidates was first held at Hotel Suasana, Johor Baru involving 30 candidates who failed in the Malay and History subjects as well as involving GALUS (failure to pass) candidates in several other subjects.

“Workshops are conducted in series to avoid disruption to candidates who are preparing to celebrate the Chinese New Year,” it said in a statement today.

The ministry added that additional workshops would be held on January 26 and 27 for other eligible students of the school.

Yesterday, a Twitter user highlighted some parents’ concern of possible discrimination at the workshop, after claiming that the initial group of students was entirely Muslim while non-Muslims were allegedly not informed of the programme.

The person further alleged that the programme included workshops on core subjects such as chemistry and additional mathematics despite being presented as a religious “motivational” event for Muslim students.

The Twitter post included screenshots of parents’ attempt to seek clarification from the school principal in a WhatsApp group, which was eventually shut down due to arguments over the alleged discrimination.

Today, the ministry pledged to improve communications in order to avoid a repeat of the incident that it described as a misunderstanding.

“Education is a key element that cuts across every race, religion and nation. The process and flow chart of program organization by the school is one of the aspects that is often emphasized,” it added.

Earlier today, Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar also responded to the controversy by directing the state education department to clarify the matter.

The Sultan of Johor said the alleged discrimination was unacceptable, and that he did not wish to see the state’s residents turning on each other over such matters.

“The Education Department must be quick to respond in these situations to prevent emotions and falsehoods from running wild. This is also a lesson to all parties who must deal swiftly and firmly to quell public dissatisfaction,” Sultan Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the Johor Royal Press Office.

“Nobody must be left out of any public programme because of their race or religion. If it is true that there was racial segregation, then action must be taken against the organisers. The same can also be said if it is found that these allegations are proven false and spread by irresponsible parties.”

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