KUALA LUMPUR: The government must start listening to the pleas of the Orang Asli and refrain from making empty promises about their children’s education, said an Orang Asli group today.
The group of Temiar Orang Asli handed a memorandum to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), detailing their grouses and demands to the government, including the building of easily accessible schools and the placement of teachers capable of understanding and working with the community.
“At the moment, our children have to go to SK Tohoi, which is 40-60 km away from where we live. Driving on the logging roads, one kilometre can feel like fifteen.”
“It would also be good if we had teachers who understand our culture and can work with us, preferably those who speak the Temiar language,” said the group’s spokesperson Nasir Dollah.
According to the memo, received by Suhakam commissioner Mahmood Zuhdi Hj Ab Majid, the Orang Asli are prepared to send their children to any other school other than SK Tohoi for the time being.
They said that this would be at least until the Education Ministry and the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) build at least five schools for every interior post i.e. Pos Tuel, Pos Hau, Pos Belatim, Pos Simpor, and Pos Gob for Primary One to Four students.
This follows recent reports that the Orang Asli community from seven villages at Pos Simpor and Pos Gob were shunning SK Tohoi, with enrolment having dipped after the incident last August where seven students fled into the forest, fearing punishment for swimming in a nearby river.
According to a report in The Star Online, parents were hesitant about sending their children to SK Tohoi because they were still traumatised by the deaths of the Orang Asli children.
Nasir claimed that teachers at SK Tohoi were also not dedicated to their work, with some coming in on Monday and leaving early on Thursday. The group has demanded the replacement of all SK Tohoi teachers.
Another demand was that the ministry and JAKOA provide for Orang Asli hostel workers to watch over the children living in hostels and to see to their personal needs.
“The drivers that ferry our children from the kampung to the schools should be conscientious and free from the influence of alcohol and drugs. The same should apply to the school’s security guards,” Nasir said, claiming that some of the guards and drivers were alcoholics.
“JAKOA needs to stop making empty promises and excuses. They say things like it’s too far, there aren’t enough children to build more schools, but we’ve heard these all before,” he said.
He dismissed the statement made by JAKOA last October that the department was “considering incentives for parents who send their children to schools, such as preparing food supplies and transit houses.”
“These are empty promises often used to trick the Orang Asli,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t want to send our children to school. But the school is also much too far.”