It has taken a pandemic to raise awareness of Child Protection and Safeguarding in Malaysia. Whilst activists and NGOs have long been highlighting the issue, the #makeschoolsasaferplace movement shone a spotlight on the issue more publicly, with much controversy, speculation, and dispute.
Keeping children safe in school should not be an issue of contention, however, it highlighted that within the society, there is still a debate over whether we ‘over’ or ‘under’ react to a situation where a child is at risk?
During the pandemic, we took the time to revise our Child Protection and Safeguarding policies in light of online and remote learning. We are also working with other not-for-profit and social enterprises as they navigate the issue for their organisations.
Our recent conversations with Arif Jalal from Rakan Tutor gave an impressive window into the future of child protection and safeguarding in this country. Rakan Tutor is a non-profit organisation that offers free one-to-one tutoring to underprivileged secondary school students in Malaysia. Whilst their commitment to academic success is impressive, it is their commitment to the safeguarding of their students and their tutors that make them stand out.
Far from seeing Safeguarding as an issue of overreacting, the organisation has undergone safeguarding training, background screening, and signed a conduct agreement that considers the safety of their students and tutors online.
As Arif explained, “At Rakan Tutor, our tutors undergo a training session with a Safeguarding component to provide them with a basic understanding of safeguarding prior to working with their students. […] our training aims to educate tutors that safeguarding concerns such as abuse or struggles with mental health are common and they may find themselves in one of these situations. Beyond teaching them the basics of how to respond to such concerns and useful resources they could share, we emphasise the importance of escalation and ensuring that such concerns are investigated. Regardless of how serious they think it is, we let them know that the safeguarding team is there to listen and to help, and to make sure they don’t face these challenges alone.”
It was refreshing to hear such a proactive and holistic approach to the safety of young people. For Arif, it is learning to recognise when a concern has become too large for a single individual to handle and knowing when to escalate a concern. “It is not necessarily something that is considered by everyone, often with good intentions as well. For example, upon hearing a safeguarding concern, there are many who may promise to keep it to themselves; they may think that this is protecting the individual coming forward. However, the very nature of these concerns is often extremely distressing and in the worst cases, life-threatening. Not every individual is equipped to deal with and resolve these issues themselves and, much like the children, they too need to know that it’s ok to ask for help.”
Safeguarding is a complex and challenging topic, but one that must always be taken seriously and never ignored. Organisations must be vigilant, taking active steps to prevent and react to concerns. Recognising that if the safety of a child is at risk, something must be done. Finally, safeguarding requires continuous learning and refreshers, organisations can benefit from sharing their experiences with one another, identifying best practices and policies with the common goal of protecting the children.”
Hearing such forward thinking and student-centered approach to safeguarding certainly gave us hope that independent NGOs, schools and organisations such as Rakan Tutor are moving towards the right direction with Safeguarding.
We are excited to see mindset’s changing, and child’s safety being put at the centre of decision making, after all, every child has the right to feel safe during their education, and it is reassuring to know that new organizations working with children are putting their safety first – far from seeing the reporting of concerns as an overreaction, they see it as central to ensuring the provision they provide to their students is of a high standard – can everyone working with children say the same?
Has your organisation updated its safeguarding policy in line with remote and online learning, and changes to the Malaysian legislative framework? Or are you looking for refresher training for Designated Safeguarding Lead or other teams? Maybe you are looking to raise the profile of Child Protection and Safeguarding in your school or organisation? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to help. For more information about our Child Protection partnerships and upcoming training visit our website https://www.leapedservices.com/our-services/child-protection-safeguarding/