In Malaysia, it is extremely hard for ‘foreign’ children – whether documented or undocumented – to access public education. Prior to 2002, such children were allowed to attend Malaysian schools, provided they held a birth certificate. However, that year, after the government reformed the Migration Act, most ‘foreign’ children were excluded from schools. Young people who did attend public schools when they were younger can still remember the day when they were told to leave school.
Today, in Kota Kinabalu, many hundreds of ‘foreign’ children have no access to education. Others attend one of a number of informal ‘alternative education’ centres set up by churches, community groups or concerned individuals. Most of the ‘schools’ that children refer to here are such informal centres, which face many pressures, and which usually only cover ‘basic’ education.