SPEECH by YB Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun
First and foremost, allow me to take this opportunity to thank Kiwanis Malaysia for inviting me to officiate the Kiwanis Malaysia’s Annual Children Party 2010. This year is the 12th consecutive year for Kiwanis Malaysia to have this event, and I am delighted to learn that the organiser has bring together more than 550 children as well as care takers from various orphanages, welfare homes, learning disabilities centres etc from Klang Valley, Johore, Perak and Penang to join us today. The smiling faces of children have already made this special occasion an unforgettable one for me. In this respect, your good work and efforts is highly commendable.
Ladies and gentlemen,Disabled children always face grave risks to their education, health and well-being and are at significantly increased risk because of social stigma and ignorance. It undeniably has impeded them to enjoy the normal way of life like other children and access to the same opportunity as others and are being segregated from the mainstream society. Statistics from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) shows that about 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school. To ensure and safeguard the rights of children and people with disability, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability has come into force in May 2008. The Convention has call for enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by children and adults with disabilities, and points for the importance of early intervention as well as inclusion in the education system from an early age.
Numerous studies showed that early childhood care and education are imperative to help children with special needs to be integrated into the society. This is because the early years offer a special opportunity to foster developmental gains in children as 80% of the brain’s capacity develops before the age of three. For example, children with Down syndrome are able to lead normal life like other people if they are given training. As such, early intervention programme including care, stimulation, parental support and access to relevant services enhances the effects of interventions for children with disabilities.
Recognizing the importance of care and support for children with special needs, the Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has established Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Centre to provide services such as diagnosis, rehabilitation, treatment and special education as well as vocational training to prepare the people with disabilities for employment. As of 2009, there are 409 CBR centres throughout the country and benefiting 17,435 PWDs. Besides this, there are 140 health centres in Malaysia that provide rehabilitation services for children with special needs. In Budget 2010, the Government has increased the allowance rate from RM50 to RM150 a month for every disabled child enroled in NGO-organised special schools, effective 1 January 2010. And it is estimated that 4,000 disabled children will be benefitted under this aid.
Ladies and gentlemen,In 2009, the Government has approved the National Child Policy and its Plan of Action as well as National Child Protection Policy and its Plan of Action to ensure the well-being and welfare of the children as well as to shape and develop children into good citizens. The National Child Policy and its Plan of Action have underlined strategies which focusing on survival, protection, development, participation and advocacy, while National Child Protection Policy and its Plan of Action are to ensure children’s protection from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Besides this, child activity centres were established by the Department at the state and district levels as part of the efforts to provide locally-based services, especially for high-risk families and children. As of 2009, there were 139 child activities centres throughout the country. The services included child-related activities, counselling for children and parents, parenting courses as well as childcare services aimed at providing the psychological and motivational support to those affected. The activities, in some ways, contributed to the prevention of many social ills such as child abuse, child neglect, school dropout, truancy and moral decadence. In addition, it has fostered community relations and the caring spirit by serving as a place where the local community interact, exchange ideas and work together towards a common goal that is, the well-being of the child and family.
We all can play a role to help them like the motto of the Kiwanis “Serving the Children of the World”. It is our role to create a world that fit for all the children. Many organizations, like Kiwanis Malaysia are making conscious efforts to help the less fortune and children who have special needs. It is delighted to learn that the Kiwanis Club currently manage and operate 19 dedicated centres for children throughout Malaysia and 7 of these centres are Down syndrome centres. With regard to this, the Department of Social Welfare has allocated RM30,660 to Kiwanis Club at Taman Tun Ismail. Once again, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the organising committee and those involved in today’s event. On that note, I have the pleasure to declare the Kiwanis Children’s Party open. Thank you and may you have a wonderful weekend.