KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Some private tahfiz (religious) schools have resisted the implementation of safety regulations for fear that these may lead to interference in their affairs, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said today.
After 23 students and handlers at a private tahfiz school at Jalan Datuk Keramat died following a predawn fire today, attention has again fallen on the safety standards at the schools that operate outside the purview of the federal government.
Tahfiz schools come under the jurisdiction of state religious authorities, and some of them feared Putrajaya’s effort to implement uniform safety standards and the formation of volunteer Fire and Rescue squads for the schools as being a form of interference.
“I had launched (the volunteer squads) in May but there are some tahfiz schools who are concerned that we are interfering and want to take over the administration,” Zahid said during a press conference after visiting the school today.
“We are merely looking at the safety aspects. It should not be seen as done under the name of power; the safety of the children and the wardens and their lives should be the priority here,” he added.
Zahid said that while religious duty is important, safety was paramount.
He also confirmed that the 14 students who survived the fire were warded in Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), with two in critical condition.
He also promised that Putrajaya will provide every assistance to ensure that all the bodies are identified.
“I advise the parents to choose tahfiz schools that comply with the necessary safety aspects,” he said.
“We have to take (the incident) as fate,” he added, urging the parents of the victims to be patient and strong.
The incident took place just weeks after the Fire and Rescue Department expressed concern over fire safety standards at tahfiz schools, especially ones that are not registered.
It was previously reported that there are more 600 such unregistered schools nationwide.