KUALA LUMPUR: Three years after the SK Pos Tohoi tragedy, in which five schoolchildren died, the trauma and pain of the families are still very much palpable.
One of those visibly affected was Midah Angah, 41, who lost her son, Haikal Yaakob, in the tragedy. While her daughter, Noreen, survived, she is no longer the same person and refuses to talk much.
Midah could only say a few words before breaking down and crying uncontrollably during the press conference organised by lawyer and activist Siti Kasim today. Seeing her crying, others present also began sobbing incessantly.
“Noreen suffered a lot. She saw Juvina’s body had been ripped apart by monitor lizards. She refuses to talk much. She is not a happy child any more.
“I hope the government understands the hardship of these families and increases the level of care in the school system,” Siti said at the press conference held at the KL and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) here today.
Seven children ran away from their hostel at SK Pos Tohoi on Aug 23, 2015. This is believed to be out of fear of being reprimanded by their teacher for bathing in a river nearby without permission.
Out of the seven, only Noreen Yaakob, 13, and Miksudiar Aluj, 14, survived the ordeal, which lasted 47 days.
The remaining five, comprising Noreen’s younger brother, Haikal, along with Ika Ayel, 9, Juvina David, 7, Linda Rosli, 8, and Sasa Sobrie, 8, died in the jungle.
Of the five, Sasa’s remains were never found. All the others were buried in a single grave in Kampung Penad, Gua Musang, on Oct 25, 2015.
Traumatised, Noreen and Miksudiar have stopped going to school. As for the parents of those who died, the tragedy remains fresh in their memory.
“We have not forgotten,” they said.
The likes of Ayel Ajip, Rosli Alik and David Kuasan, whose children died in the incident, are calling for schools to be built in the interior, so that they do not have to send their children to faraway boarding schools.
Ayel said prior to the incident, he had no qualms about sending his daughter to the school as he was thinking of her future.
“After the incident, we are afraid to send them to school because we are scared the same thing may happen again.
“The government needs to build schools in the interior. Also, the authorities need to know that youngsters, at that age of seven, really do not know how to bathe themselves, to wash their own clothes or shoes,” he said.
David, who is the father of Juvina, recalled the time spent searching for the missing children and how the teachers then were not helpful in informing the parents on what had really happened.
He also called for schools to be built in the interior for their underage children as it was really difficult to send their children to distant boarding schools.
“We were thinking of their future. We seldom get to see our own children because the school is far and we have no cars. Even if we walked, it would take one or two days from the village to the school,” he said.
David also pointed to the need for teachers to understand the Orang Asli people, relating an incident which occurred when he was 10.
“When I got to school one day, a teacher asked me for my name in Bahasa Malaysia.
“I did not know how to answer, so I was slapped. But you see, it was because I did not know how to speak the language.
“The teachers need to understand us. Even if we have gone to school, we may not necessarily understand the language,” he added.