PETALING JAYA: An Orang Asli activist voiced out his frustration today over the high number of teens from his community dropping out of school.
He said many do so to escape bullying from other Malaysian students.
Shaq Koyok said they then do odd jobs to survive.
“They form the minority in schools. They are gentle and don’t fight. They would rather drop out of school instead.
“It is not easy for us in schools,” he said at a forum entitled “The Representation of Orang Asli in Peninsula” here.
He said other races often clashed with them because of their lack of knowledge about the Orang Asli community.
“They make fun of Orang Asli uniforms and stationery because they are from a poor background,” said Shaq.
He has appealed to Education Minister Maszlee Malik to create greater awareness among other races of his community’s culture, medicinal knowledge and folklore stories.
He said the Orang Asli play an important role in protecting the forests and have high respect for their environment as they serve as a means of livelihood.
He says more knowledge among other Malaysians about Orang Asli customs would put a stop to such bullying of students and prejudices against them in schools.
“Australia and New Zealand have been so successful in promoting their Aboriginal culture.
“Others now understand and respect their culture,” he added.
Collin Nicholas, coordinator from the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, hopes other races will take the effort to learn more about the Orang Asli culture.
He showed a video of an Orang Asli dance which differed a lot from a dance staged by modern dancers and school students.
Another activist, Tijah Yok Chopil, said the community is happy that there is now one MP from the Orang Asli community representing them in Parliament.
Barisan Nasional candidate Ramli Mohd Nor, a former senior police officer, was declared winner of the Cameron Highlands by-election on Jan 26.
However, Tijah said her community needs to realise that BN has been using the Orang Asli as a political tool to get votes for decades.
She said under Pakatan Harapan, their voices are slowly being heard and hopes more Orang Asli will be appointed to voice their issues.
Tijah also raised concerns over Orang Asli youths who are not giving back to the community after completing their education and obtaining their degrees.
She said those who managed to study should be the voice of the community to speak to the media or lodge police reports to protect the interests of the Orang Asli.
“We really want our kids to study and become professionals.
“But they are not voicing out when our land is being snatched by companies or the state government.”