On Monday, 22 July 2013, Guneswari Kelly's posting on Facebook about school children at SK Seri Pristina in Sungai Buloh eating at changing room or bathroom went viral:
On the following day, Tuesday, 23 July 2013, TMI reported:
This was the view of a parent, Mastura Abdullah Sani, 22, who expressed shock after learning that non-Muslim pupils of SK Seri Pristina in Sungai Buloh were ordered to have their meals in the school shower room.
Parents who turned up to collect their children from the school this evening were puzzled why the school authorities had resorted to such a measure.
There were also others who turned up at the school gates this evening just to see what was happening after word spread that non-Muslims pupils of the school were ordered to spend the recess, eating in the shower room.
"This is wrong," said another parent who wanted to be identified only as Zarimah.
"I know for a fact that earlier, the children were allowed to use the canteen, but suddenly the canteen was shut.
"They could have used one of the classrooms instead of the shower room," she said.
Several parents claimed that the canteen was out-of-bounds after the operator closed shop for the fasting month. The school authorities tied a red tape around the premises to stop children from using the place.
The case of schoolchildren dining in a shower room during recess would not have seen light if not for a concerned parent who did her own investigations.
The woman, who has a daughter studying there, was skeptical when told about this last Saturday by a school van driver.
The mother, identifying herself only as Guneswari, visited the school on Monday and what she saw shocked her.
"The non-Muslim students were put in the shower room, which is adjacent to the toilet.
"The doors to the shower room were closed, there was no ventilation. The smell from the toilet was so strong," she told The Malaysian Insider.
Incensed that her daughter was treated in a such a manner, Guneswari demanded an explanation from the school authorities. She met the school's afternoon supervisor.
But when there was no response forthcoming, Guneswari decided to expose what was going on in the school.
Her posting on Facebook has now gone viral. It has garnered more than 3,000 shares.
Guneswari also dismissed reports earlier today that the canteen was allegedly closed for renovations.
“You can see it on my Facebook page. There is nothing going on in the canteen," she said.
After the Facebook posting became viral, Education Ministry officials showed up at the school this afternoon where they inspected the shower room and canteen. They also spoke to the school administration.
Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan later said that they have ordered the school to stop asking the non-Muslims pupils to have their meals at the shower room.
A police report over the incident was also lodged at the Sungai Buloh police station this evening. - July 23, 2013.
On the third day, Wednesday, 24 July 2013, TMI reported:
The issue of non-Muslim pupils being ordered to have their meals in a Sungai Buloh school shower room is not related to race or religion, said the Education Ministry.
Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan (pic), who visited the school this afternoon, said the shower room has been used as a canteen since March, and not since the beginning of the fasting month.
"Let me make this clear. This is not about religion or race," he said, adding that the matter has been resolved.
It was reported that non-Muslims were ordered to eat their meals during recess in the makeshift canteen in the shower room during the Ramadan month.
Kamalanathan said the issue had been blown out of proportion.
"It happened to be that the canteen renovation started one to two weeks ago," he said, stressing that the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) was aware of what the school administration had done.
"What happened was very unfortunate but his (the headmaster) intention was good,” he said at a press conference after meeting the school administration and the PTA today.
Headmaster Mohd Nasir Mohd Noor was not present and, when asked, Kamalanathan said he was "in a meeting". He was however spotted walking around the school with Kamalanathan before the press conference.
"The headmaster has apologised and we accept it," Kamalanathan said.
He noted that the headmaster only wanted the students to have a safe place to eat their meals as the canteen could not accommodate all its students. It was built for about 600 students but there were 1,300 pupils.
The changing room was to be a temporary venue. "Previously, they had to eat by the drain and other unsafe areas but after this I will make sure they only eat here in the canteen since the renovation work has ended," Kamalanathan said.
He said that the issue must not be made into one that incites racial sentiments as the matter at hand is only about an inappropriate dining venue.
Kamalanathan refused to be drawn on why it was difficult to provide suitable space for 28 non-Muslim students to have their recess break when the school has a large compound.
“It has been done now,” he said.
He maintained the pupils had to have their meals in the changing room for their own safety. He said the school had been changing the glass door at the canteen and the administration had feared for the pupils’ safety.
The ministry will also be assisting the four-year-old school to enlarge its canteen, he added.
"Hopefully in the Syawal month, there will be a new place for all the students to eat and no other rooms need to be used."
He also offered to donate some funds to help in the renovation work.
Parents who were present at the venue disputed Kamalanathan's explanation.
Two parents said pupils were only placed in the changing room after the fasting month started.
"Why would we wait this long to voice out our dissatisfaction if this has been going on since March?, said M. Neeta, 30, whose daughter is studying in the school. She expressed shock that Kamalanathan insisted it had been happening since March.
"He must talk to the parents too... I'm not happy with this," the heavily pregnant mother said.
T. Devi, 38, whose sister's daughter attends the school, echoed Neeta's sentiments. "This opinion and remarks are very biased."
Several NGO members who were present lodged a police report to record their dissatisfaction after Kamalanathan left the school.
K. Gunasekaran from the Malaysian Tamilan Today (MTT) said the contradicting explanations simply did not add up.
Dr K. Suthan from the Malaysian Indian Education Transformation Association (MIETA) shared his view.
The Malaysian Insider was told to leave the premises by an unnamed PTA member when asked if the changing room had been used since March. - July 24, 2013.