Forced to eat in changing room

Picture of pupils eating in a changing room during recess in a school in Petaling Jaya have surfaced on Facebook.

This was supposedly done so as not to offend fasting Muslims, The Star reported.

The photos, which have sparked an outcry, are believed to have been taken at Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh.

They show tables next to sinks and in front of shower stalls. It is not clear who posted the pictures on the social media website.

Parent Gunesweri Kelly, who shared the photos on Facebook, said yesterday that the changing room was stinking as there was a toilet next door.

"As a mother, I am in tears and sad. I need to help my child suffering in that room during the break," The Star quoted her as saying.

She claimed that when parents complain, the children are just directed to another bathroom or a store room, liberal news portal Malaysiakini reported.

Her post has been shared more than 1,900 times and received more than 160 comments within 12 hours. The commentors, who include Muslims, condemned the act and urged punishment for the school administrators.

Netizens claimed that the school canteen was closed and cordoned off.

The issue has also become a hot topic on Twitter, with people using the hashtag #makandalamtoilet to air their concern.

The Star reported that despite several attempts, they were not able to reach the headmaster Mohamad Nasir Mohamad Noor.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said action should be taken against those responsible for forcing non-Muslim pupils to eat in the changing room.

Investigation ordered

"I have instructed the director-general of the Education Ministry to investigate the issue of non- Muslim pupils who are asked to eat in a toilet (tandas)," Mr Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, tweeted.

He added: "Stern action would be taken if there is any basis (to the complaint)."

Deputy Education Minister II P. Kamalanathan said: "We view the matter with gravity and we will take stern action to ensure it will not recur."

He ordered the school to immediately remove the temporary eating place set up in its changing room.

"It has been done now," he tweeted from his official account, @PKamalanathan.

He also said that he has asked the authorities to investigate why such a decision was made.

He said the school could have appointed a temporary canteen operator to run operations during Ramadan.

He said: "If the canteen is under renovation, a proper place should have been identified (to eat), surely not the changing room."

The Star quoted him as saying that he was "extremely disappointed by decisions made" by the school. He said that although schools have the authority to close their canteens, there should be a temporary canteen set up.

He added: "But I cannot stress enough that the temporary premises must be in a hygienic location with facilities similar to a proper canteen."

The Malaysian Chinese Association deputy president Mr Liow Tiong Lai urged the Education Ministry to ensure that all school canteens are accessible to students at all times.

He said: "Why can't students use the canteen when they bring their own food? The ministry needs to clarify this issue."

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